My Go-To Summer Pasta Dish

Pasta with summer vegetables, garlic, and basil

It's been a good summer, hasn't it? As much as I like to hold on to summer forever, fall is my favorite season so I'm not upset it's coming. But before embracing the new season, I want to take a little time to reflect on this one.

I'm going to rewind all the way back to late May, which I'm calling my unofficial start of summer, when Jeff, Gunner, and I trekked up to Ithaca to spend a long weekend with my family and celebrate my little sister's college graduation. There was lots of great food, lots of card playing, and lots of enjoying being on and exploring the Finger Lakes. We got a little more family time after that when some of my family came to Boston the following weekend to visit. And even more when we spent a week together on the Cape in July, eating seafood, lounging on the beach, and hiking in the dunes.

I also spent a lot of time visiting with friends this summer, whether hanging out at their houses and holding and playing with new and not-so-new babies or dining out at various restaurants, including Bronwyn, Alden & Harlow, Parla, Post 390, La Brasa, Pastoral, Wink & Nod, Harvest, 51 Lincoln, and Sycamore.

Pasta with summer vegetables, garlic, and basil

The farm dinner I went to at Volante Farms was one of the highlights of my summer (even though it was technically work, research for my Boston Globe article on farm dinners), and I'm already looking forward to seeing their offerings for next summer. Along those same lines, I got to attend a cooking class at Saltbox Farm (also for research) and am hoping to coerce a group of friends to sign up for a future class with me. And keeping with the farm theme, Jeff and I finally made it out to Gibbet Hill Grill for a great dinner out (post coming soon).

In an effort to be more healthy and finally make good on our plans to exercise more, for the past month, Jeff and I have been getting up at 6:15 on weekday mornings and a little later than that on weekend mornings, and we've been running three days a week and walking four. (Gunner is loving it!) It was a struggle at first, but now I wake up at 6:45 on weekends and feel so well rested that I've actually gotten up and headed into the kitchen to start baking! That might sound crazy, but it is so much better than before when I used to have to drag myself out of bed every morning.

One of my favorite things about this summer has been my vegetable garden. It's given me an excuse to spend more time outside, tending to the plants and harvesting what I grew. And it's also inspired me in the kitchen. I admit I haven't posted often this summer, but there's still been lots of cooking and baking going on around here. There's also been a lot of grilling and hanging out on the deck, often with a glass of rose in my hand (most recently from the box I have stashed in the fridge) and a Julius Echter in Jeff's.

Pasta with summer vegetables, garlic, and basil

Early on in the summer, Jeff and I went to see Chef (great movie!) with a couple of our friends, and I've been hooked on pasta with garlic and oil ever since and have been making versions of the dish all summer long. I forgot how something so simple can be so satisfying. And that's where my go-to summer pasta dish comes in. (You knew I'd get there eventually.)

A couple of nights after we saw the movie, we were trying to figure out what to have for dinner without running out to the store, and I realized we always have pasta, garlic, and oil (and usually some parmesan in the fridge), and I whipped up the super-simple pasta dish.

Since then I have made it with summer squash; with squash, zucchini, and tomatoes; with all Sun Gold tomatoes; with a variety of cherry tomatoes; and even with tomatoes, zucchini, and fairytale eggplant. It's incredibly versatile and incredibly easy. So easy, I'm not even giving you a recipe (though if you need one, check out my pasta with summer squash, garlic, and basil to get started). You can use as much or as little pasta as you want, depending on how many people you're serving, and use just garlic or fill the pasta with all sorts of summer vegetables.

Pasta with summer vegetables, garlic, and basil

I always start by salting any vegetables I want to draw moisture out of (like zucchini, squash, and eggplant) and bringing a pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta. You can use whatever pasta you like, but I think a thin spaghetti is best. I cook the pasta according to the package directions and save 1/2 cup or so of the cooking water before draining the pasta -- if you're making a large amount, you may want to save more water just in case.

About 5 minutes before the pasta is done, I heat some olive oil in a skillet and add garlic slivers. Then I pat my salted vegetables dry and add them as well. I cook them until they're nicely browned and then add the tomatoes, which I heat just until they warm through and burst.

Garlic slivers in oilZucchini and fairytale eggplant

Zucchini and fairytale eggplantZucchini, fairytale eggplant, and tomatoes

Then I stir in the pasta and add the cooking water a little at a time, until the "sauce" is the consistency I like.

Pasta with zucchini, fairytale eggplant, and tomatoes

Finally, I season the dish with salt and pepper, divide it among serving bowls, and top it with grated parmesan and chopped fresh basil.

Pasta with zucchini, fairytale eggplant, and tomatoesPasta with summer vegetables, garlic, and basil

It's my go-to because it's easy, it works with a number of different summer vegetables, and it always tastes amazing.

Pasta with summer vegetables, garlic, and basil

What have been the highlights of your summer?