Chez Panisse Vegetables comes to the rescue every summer with its many recipes and ideas. This year I've discovered the summer squash and corn pasta recipe, which I've adapted very slightly, using crème fraîche in place of butter and basil in place of the cilantro, and omitting the jalapeño. I've also been making it with orecchiette, which I toast in olive oil, a trick I read about in a recent Bon Appétit, which creates crispy, golden edges. This step is optional, but it adds nice texture and color and is just kind of fun. The key with this recipe is to cook the vegetables for no more than 3 minutes or they turn to mush by the end. Toasted pine nuts would be a nice addition here.
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more to taste
12 ounces orecchiette
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 to 5 small zucchini, small diced to yield 4 cups
2 ears of corn, shucked, kernels removed
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/4 cup crème fraiche
1/2 cup basil, finely sliced
1 dash Freshly cracked pepper to taste
1 Lemon for serving, optional
Step 1Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Cook pasta al dente, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid (or even more if you want some on hand for reheating), drain pasta, transfer it to a large bowl, and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Step 2Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. When it shimmers, add the zucchini, corn, and garlic. Immediately reduce the heat to medium, season lightly with salt, and cook for 2 minutes undisturbed. Stir, and cook for one minute more, then transfer to a large serving bowl—zucchini may taste underdone, but it will continue to cook as it sits.
Step 3Add 2 more tablespoons of the olive oil to the pan. When it shimmers, add the pasta and let it cook undisturbed for 1 minute. Stir, and let it cook for another minute. The edges should be starting to brown. Repeat this process for 2 more minutes, or until the pasta is browned to your liking, then transfer it to the bowl with the vegetables. Add the reserved pasta cooking liquid and the crème fraiche to the sauté pan and stir until emulsified, then transfer to the bowl of pasta. Add the basil, and toss everything together. Taste. Season with pepper to taste and more salt if necessary.
Step 4Serve pasta with lemon wedges on the side, if desired.