This time of year I’m reminded of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone tale. There’s so much late-summer zucchini in this small town that, under cover of night, people are surreptitiously leaving big paper bags of it on people’s porches. You walk out to get the paper in the morning—and you’ve been zucchini-ed.
Sometimes I get the feeling this must be happening to me; there’s just too much of the stuff lying around. A couple of weeks ago someone wrote on our Facebook wall, “Got any ideas of what to do with zucchini besides zucchini bread?” I get it. You’ve got this wonderfully healthy vegetable and all you can think to do is to turn it into cake.
This time of year grilled pasta sauce is a favorite of mine. While the pasta water heats, grill tomato halves, a head of garlic, and sliced zucchini and red onion. After slipping the garlic from the cloves, transfer them, along with the grilled tomatoes to a food processor and whir for an instant cooked sauce. Toss some of the sauce with the grilled zucchini and onion, the remaining sauce with the pasta. Although you could sprinkle with the usual Parmesan, I prefer topping this robust pasta with more assertive crumbled feta.
Between the farmer’s markets, our gardens, grocery store sales, and what our gardening friends pass on, it’s easy to end up with zucchini by the bushel. There’s always zucchini bread, but now you’ve got a main-course vegetarian pasta to add to your repertoire. With dishes like these, you might want to leave a sign at the front door, “Accepting all stray zucchini.”
- 12 ounces thin spaghetti
- 8 Italian plum tomatoes, halved
- 2 medium-large zucchini, cut into rounds on a slight diagonal
- 1 large red onion, cut into thick slabs
- 1 small whole garlic head
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Salt and ground black pepper
- ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
- Heat all burners of a gas grill on high. Bring 2 quarts of generously salted water to boil in a large soup kettle. Add pasta; using back-of-the-box times as a guide cook, partially covered and stirring frequently at first to prevent sticking, until just tender. Reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid, drain pasta and return it to the pot.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss tomatoes, zucchini, onion, and garlic with 3 tablespoons of the oil, oregano, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
- Place tomatoes (cut side up), zucchini, onion, and garlic in a single layer on a hot rack; cover and grill tomatoes without turning until skins have darkened and flesh is soft. Grill zucchini, onion, and garlic, turning only once, until grilled marked, about 10 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to the work bowl of a food processor. When cool enough to handle, slip garlic cloves out of skin and into food processor, along with olives and remaining tablespoon of oil; process until smooth. Transfer zucchini and onion to a medium bowl. When cool enough to handle, separate onion rounds into rings and toss ½ cup of the tomato sauce over warm vegetables. Toss remaining sauce along ¼ cup of the feta cheese and as much of the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to make a moist pasta.
- Arrange pasta on each of 4 pasta plates, top with vegetables, sprinkle with remaining feta, and serve.