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Recipes: Three light and easy pasta dishes for summer

Bright flavors make these recipes just right for warm weather dining.

Sicilian trapanese pesto (gemelli with tomato-almond pesto and croutons).
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Sicilian trapanese pesto (gemelli with tomato-almond pesto and croutons).

These recipes are part of a new partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.

The key to our best summer pastas is balancing the noodles’ starchy heft with bright flavors. We accomplish this by reserving some ingredients until just before serving, leaving them raw to preserve their freshness. An uncooked sauce of tomatoes, basil, garlic, and almonds comes together quickly in a food processor for our Sicilian Trapanese Pesto. Our Campanelle With Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil borrows a trick from chowder recipes. We first boil grated corncobs to create a creamy sauce that enhances the flavors of the pasta and then add fresh tomatoes and basil to finish. And in our Spaghetti al Limone, lemon zest and juice provide acidity that cuts through the salty cheese.

Sicilian Trapanese Pesto (Gemelli With Tomato-Almond Pesto and Croutons)

Makes 4 servings

When we sampled this no-cook tomato sauce while in Sicily, it was made the traditional way, with a large mortar and pestle, but a food processor gets the job done faster and more easily. Topped with crisp, olive oil-infused croutons and toasted almonds, the dish is served warm or at room temperature after the pasta has had a little time to soak in the flavorful sauce. Instead of blanched, slivered almonds, you could also use sliced or whole almonds that have been roughly chopped.

Don’t overprocess the second addition of tomatoes. We pulse the first half to create a juicy sauce, but the rest we pulse only until roughly chopped so that tomato chunks add bursts of bright color and texture.

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¾      cup blanched slivered almonds

12      ounces gemelli or other short pasta

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4        medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

½      cup lightly packed fresh basil, leaves torn if large

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2        pints cherry tomatoes, divided

6        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve

3        ounces crusty white bread, torn into rough ½-inch pieces (about 1¾ cups)

In a 10-inch skillet over medium-high, toast the almonds, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside; reserve the skillet.

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

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Meanwhile, in a food processor, process ½ cup of the almonds, the garlic, and 2 teaspoons salt until finely chopped, about 30 seconds. Add the basil and half the tomatoes, then pulse until chopped and well combined, 4 to 6 pulses. Add the remaining tomatoes and 2 tablespoons oil, then pulse just until the whole tomatoes are broken up, about 3 pulses. Transfer to a serving bowl, add the pasta and ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, then toss. Let stand, tossing once or twice, for 10 to 15 minutes, to allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce.

While the pasta stands, in the same skillet used to toast the almonds, toss the bread, remaining 4 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook over medium, stirring frequently, until the bread is crisp and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Scatter the toasted bread and the remaining ¼ cup almonds over the pasta. Drizzle with additional oil and sprinkle with pepper.

Campanelle With Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil

Makes 4 servings

Campanelle With Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Campanelle with sweet corn, tomatoes, and basil.

The ingredients in this summery pasta dish are few, so fresh corn and ripe tomatoes are key. To create a creamy sauce without cream, we grate the corn kernels from the cobs. To reinforce the corn flavor, we boil the cobs in the water that is later used to cook the pasta. Using a minimal amount of water — just 2½ quarts — means the flavors and starches are concentrated in the liquid, and we put some of this to good use in the sauce. Yellow corn gives the dish a golden hue, but white corn works, too. Whichever you use, make sure to remove as much of the silk as possible before grating. Short, sauce-catching pasta shapes are best here — if you can’t find campanelle (a frilly, trumpet-like shape), look for penne rigate, fusilli, or farfalle.

The habanero chili does add a little heat (seeding the chili removes much of its burn), but it’s here mostly because its fruity notes are a nice complement the corn, tomatoes, and basil.

1         pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4        ears corn, husked

4        tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, divided

2        medium shallots, minced

1         habanero chili, stemmed, seeded, and minced

12      ounces campanelle or other short pasta

1         cup chopped fresh basil

In a small bowl, stir together the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt; set aside. Set a box grater in a large bowl or pie plate. Using the grater’s large holes, grate the corn down to the cobs; reserve the cobs.

In a large pot, bring 2½ quarts water to a boil. Add the corncobs and 1 tablespoon salt, reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard cobs, then remove the pot from the heat.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the grated corn, shallots, chili, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1½ cups of the cooking water. Cook over medium-low, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened (a spatula should briefly leave a trail when drawn through the mixture), 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, return the remaining corn-infused water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain pasta. Add pasta to the skillet and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until pasta is coated and the sauce is creamy, about 2 minutes; if needed, add the reserved cooking water 2 tablespoons at a time to reach the proper consistency.

Off heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the tomatoes with their juices, and the basil, then toss until the butter has melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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Spaghetti al Limone

Makes 4 servings

Spaghetti al Limone
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Spaghetti al limone.

Many versions of this dish include cream, but we prefer to use a little butter and some of the starchy pasta cooking water; this gives the dish a saucy consistency and a light creaminess that doesn’t mute the freshness of the lemon. Feel free to substitute linguine for the spaghetti and to adjust the lemon zest and juice to your taste.

Don’t cook the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it’s a minute or two shy of al dente; it will continue to cook in the skillet.

5        tablespoons salted butter, divided

8        medium garlic cloves, minced

1         teaspoon red pepper flakes

¾      cup dry white wine

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

12      ounces spaghetti

2        tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice

¾      cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil

Grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

In a 12-inch skillet over medium, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and cook until reduced to about ½ cup, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until just shy of al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain and set aside.

Set the skillet with the garlic mixture over medium-high, stir in 1½ cups of the reserved pasta water, and bring to a simmer. Add the drained pasta and toss. Cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.

Off heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon black pepper, the lemon juice and zest, and the parsley or basil. Taste and season with salt and, if needed, adjust the consistency by adding additional pasta water a few tablespoons at a time. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with grated Parmesan.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.