Summer is hands down my favorite time of year. To me it means weekend barbeques with friends, lazy Saturday's at the beach and a much needed vacation! Summer officially kicked off this past Monday the 21st, and while it brings us longer days and warmer temperatures it also brings us the best produce of the year. Plump tomatoes, juicy bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini and herbs are overflowing at your local produce stands and farmers markets. And with prices at their lowest of the season you can't afford to miss out on making some of summer's best dishes.
Even if your not a so-called 'veggie' person I beg you to at least give this recipe a try. Even the boy was skeptical as first! Red bell peppers, summer squash and zucchini are chopped and tossed in olive oil with fresh garlic and shallots then covered in a delicious cream sauce and served over perfectly al dente pasta. Throw some toasted bread crumbs on top and serve with a nice hunk of bread and a salad and you have simple, fresh and delicious LOCAL meal to serve your family.
Serves 6 - 8
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves of garlic chopped thin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more depending on how hot you like it
1 large red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 large or 2 small zucchini, cut into half moons
1 large or 2 small summer squash, cut into half moons
¼ cup fresh basil
½ cup toasted breadcrumbs (optional) *
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups your favorite white Italian cheese (parmesan, romano, fontina, etc)
1 lb fettuccini pasta noodles
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta until al dente. You want the pasta to still have some bite to it as it will finish cooking through when you add it to the skillet. Remember to salt your water aggressively and do not oil the water. Oil makes the pasta too slippery and the sauce will not stick to the noodles.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss in the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add in the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper, zucchini and summer squash and cook until veggies are tender but still have some bite left to them, about 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste then transfer veggies to a plate and return pan to heat.
Lower the heat to medium low and add the butter to the pan. While butter is melting use a wooden spoon and scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the heavy cream and mix well. Now it’s time to add the cheese, if you don’t have any of the above cheeses you can use what you have and still make this work. I happened to have a bag of shredded Italian cheese blend in my fridge that I use for pizzas and it worked perfectly. Add the cheese 1 handful at a time and make sure it is thoroughly melted before adding more to the pan. You will need around 2 cups but I like to taste as I’m adding so the sauce is to my desired level of 'cheesiness'. Salt and pepper to taste then reduce heat to low.
When pasta has finished cooking, drain thoroughly and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, add directly to the skillet with the cream sauce. Toss pasta with the cream sauce; if your sauce is too thick add a little bit of pasta water until it reaches your desired consistency. Throw in the veggies, salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve immediately with a big hunk of fresh Italian bread.
* If you choose, you can top this with toasted breadcrumbs, I like the additional crunch it gives but it’s purely optional. If adding, toast ½ cup of panko bread crumbs with 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat until light brown. Sprinkle over pasta before serving.