There is just something about a big bowl of pasta in the middle of the table.
Maybe with a hunk of Parmesan on the side. Maybe with a crusty loaf of bread to make sure no sauce goes to waste. When the pasta is loaded with summer vegetables, nothing else is needed.
These types of meals remind me of my Italian family and the way their tables sprinkled across New York City boroughs pulsed and pulled like a magnet, welcoming all who wandered in for a visit. By the time you got your coat and boots off and made your way to the dining room, a steaming bowl of pasta wasn’t far behind.
This dish achieves three things: From start to finish it only takes 30 minutes; it’s a celebration of golden summer squash and golden tomatoes; and it can be easily adjusted for what you have and, most importantly, what you love.
For instance, you can use any kind of pasta for this, even vegetable noodles, aka zoodles. And you can certainly swap out vegetables you have on hand or enjoy more to replace any listed here. For instance, the recipe calls for arugula because I have a never-ending hankering for the peppery bite of arugula, but you could easily use spinach, kale, beet or turnip greens. I chose yellow summer squash and golden tomatoes, but the final dish will not suffer if you use green zucchini or red cherry tomatoes. We are in the middle of the summer harvest, and every fruit and vegetable is a gift. So my general rule for cooking at this time of year is this: Let it be easy and let it shine.
Summer vegetable brown butter pasta
Makes: 4 servings; total time: 30 minutes
½ pound dry pasta
5 tablespoons butter
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow summer squash, diced
1 pint golden cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups arugula
Salt, pepper or red chile flakes to taste
½ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish (optional)
Preparation: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (it should taste like the sea).
Prepare the sauce: In a large sauté pan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Let it start to bubble until the color shifts from golden yellow to golden brown. When folks first make brown butter, it can be tempting to stop as soon as you see the color start to change. I encourage you to keep a close eye on the butter, but let it deepen just a shade or two more. We don’t want it to turn black and burn, but your patience will be rewarded if you can hold out for a deeper brown, trust me.
Once the butter browns, immediately add the garlic, summer squash and tomatoes. Adding these vegetables will stop the butter from any further browning, and as the squash becomes tender, the tomatoes juices will begin melting into the butter. Let the sauce simmer for around 5 to 7 minutes or until the squash is tender.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and let it cook until it just has a bite, al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, add the arugula, ¼ cup of hot water from the pasta pot, salt and pepper to taste. Take a bite. How does it taste? Adjust as needed.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and transfer it directly to the saucepan. Let the pasta simmer for a couple of minutes in the sauce before transferring it to a large serving bowl. Garnish the top with sliced basil and serve with a hunk of Parmesan cheese on the side for grating.