While eating my way through Italy earlier this month, one thing became clear very quickly – pasta is alive and well on the Italian food circuit (sorry Paleos), and there was absolutely no escaping it on this holiday. The little voice in my head told me not to bother resisting the amazing combinations of fresh pasta abundant across Florence – and why should I? As the saying goes, when it Italy…do as the Italians (or is it the Romans?). Imagine fresh, hand cut linguini with local cheese and seasonal vegetables. Or, rich, melt-in-your-mouth duck ragu slow cooked to perfection, over hot pappardelle. Almost everything I tasted was outstanding (with the exception of a tourist trap that doesn’t warrant a mention) and well worth my best efforts to replicate in my kitchen. Go big or go home. So I went big and ate it all!
I love the simplicity in Italian cuisine, and a fresh, summer vegetable pasta is all about easy, yet careful preparation. Inspired by a dish I had the pleasure of eating at Trattoria Omero, this is one of those meals that takes only a few minutes to put together – you just need a few ingredients that can easily be found in your local supermarket. Use the freshest produce you can get your hands on, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a fine pasta dish gracing your dinner table.
If you haven’t made fresh pasta before, I highly recommend you try it. It’s easier than you think (you can find my fresh pasta recipe here), and I promise you’ll be rewarded by the ultimate payoff in taste! Feel free to use dried pasta instead of fresh, and if you’re gluten-free, substitute the pasta with shredded zucchini “noodles” or spaghetti squash.
Summer Vegetable Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil
Serves 2 to 4
- My homemade pasta, shaped into linguini OR 300 grams dried linguini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large zucchini (about 300 grams), cut into ½-inch cubes
- 250 grams cherry tomatoes, cut in halves and seasoned with a pinch of salt
- ½ cup white wine (optional, but recommended)
- ¼ cup chicken stock or water
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top of pasta
- 1 ball buffalo mozzarella (125 gm), drained and at room temperature
- Fresh basil
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Bring a large pot filled halfway with water to a rolling boil. Season the water with salt.
Add the pasta, and cook until “al dente” – about 4 minutes for fresh pasta (cooking time will vary if using dried pasta, cook according to package instructions). Be sure to keep about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining and set aside.
While pasta is cooking, get on with your sauce.
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Throw in the garlic, and cook for one minute (careful not to burn the garlic). Add the zucchini, and cook until soft and the until the edges start to brown (this takes only a few minutes). Add the wine (if using) and chicken stock or water. Reduce the liquid until there is barely any left in the pan. Give it a taste, and season with a bit of salt and black pepper.
When the zucchini has cooked, add the pasta and cherry tomatoes and toss to distribute the ingredients. Add a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce. Throw in the parmesan cheese and mix through.
To serve, pile the pasta into serving bowls or plates, making sure to get the tomatoes and zucchini throughout each portion. Top each pasta with a fat piece of fresh mozzarella and some roughly torn basil. Add extra parmesan cheese and more black pepper if desired. Just dig right in!
This, my friends, is a seriously fabulous pasta dish.