Recipe of the Week: Zucchini, Sweet Corn and Basil Penne

Zucchini, sweet corn and basil penne with pine nuts and mozzarella is a summery dish from “The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini” by Cara Mangini. Photo by Matthew Benson.

Zucchini, sweet corn and basil penne with pine nuts and mozzarella is a summery dish from “The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini” by Cara Mangini. Photo by Matthew Benson.

It’s getting too hot for just about anything in my garden to grow, but this is still the time of year when I crave corn, basil or zucchini in just about everything.

Cara Mangini, author of the new book “The Vegetable Butcher” (Workman, $29.95), often prepares those three ingredients together to serve with some kind of starch, either on top of foccacia, with rice or, in the case of this recipe, on a bed of penne. The sauce won’t have enough flavor if you don’t heavily salt the pasta water (1 Tbsp. for every 4 quarts of water), and though you can slice the zucchini in half moons, try cutting them into these sticks to optimize the surface area. Pull the vegetables off the heat while they still have some bite left to them.

Zucchini, Sweet Corn and Basil Penne with Pine Nuts and Mozzarella

3/4 lb. good-quality dried penne
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch by 3-inch sticks
Kernels from 2 ears fresh corn
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 oz. mozzarella cheese, torn into bite-size pieces
2 to 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and lemon wedges, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously. Cook the penne according to package instructions until just shy of al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving at least 2 cups pasta water for the sauce.

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown lightly, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the zucchini, turn the heat up to high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini softens, 6 to 8 minutes. (You will need to add up to 1 cup of the reserved pasta water, a little at a time, as the zucchini cooks and becomes dry and sticks to the pan.)

Adjust the heat to medium and add the corn, 1/2 tsp. of salt, the red pepper flakes and butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more. Add penne and 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and stir well to incorporate. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is well coated and the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add half of the basil, the pine nuts and mozzarella. Add lemon juice to taste and stir well. Scoop the penne into individual shallow bowls, making sure to evenly distribute the zucchini and corn. Top with remaining basil, a fresh shaving of Parmesan and a drizzle of your best extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges if you wish. Serves 4 to 6.

— From “The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini” by Cara Mangini (Workman, $29.95)

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