Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fettuccine with Cream, Walnuts & Summer Squash

The weather the last few days has been very changeable—typical actually for the month of September in Kansas City. This time of year the temperatures can fluctuate from quite cool to very warm in the space of just a few hours. Saturday morning was pleasantly warm with dappled sunlight and a humid breeze. I went out to spend some time working in my garden, trying to regain some semblance of control. I discovered that my nasturtiums that had struggled all summer—first it was wet and cool and then dry and hot—had finally come into their own.

In the afternoon the weather turned cloudy and cool as a cold front tried to move south over the city. It never really made it--we have been warmer than usual for the past few days now—but on Saturday the cooler evening air along with the earlier fading of the light put me in the mood for something creamy and comforting for dinner.

There are some dishes that are very much "of the moment"—a moment when the harvest of the previous season is lingering as the calendar moves forward into the next. The pasta I made for dinner on Saturday is a good example of one. It is a simple dish of pasta dressed with summer squash and cream. We have beautiful summer squash all summer—it has quite a long season—and never does it occur to me to pair it with cream. The hot weather during which it thrives seems to demand that it be paired with olive oil, lemon, olives, tomatoes and other "Mediterranean" ingredients.  But of course zucchini isn't limited to this narrow palate.  A few years ago, as the summer squash season was winding down, I decided to combine it with walnuts and cream for a quick pasta.  It was the walnuts that made me think of the cream.  The nutty character of the summer squash goes well with walnuts and I frequently put them together.  And since I love walnut cream sauce on pasta...and I tend to think of cream sauces as the weather begins to cool off...it suddenly seemed to be an obvious combination.  I wanted to remember to make it again when the moment was right, so I scribbled in the margin of my notebook that it was just the thing for a cloudy and cool fall evening. 

But since the summer squash vines will quit producing when cooler weather really starts to settle in, the moment for this pasta will be fleeting—and if recent weather is any indication, will be here one day and gone the next.

Fettuccine with Cream, Walnuts & Summer Squash

8 oz. fettuccine
1/2 to 2/3 c. heavy cream
8 to 10 oz. small zucchini or yellow squash, sliced a scant 1/8-inch thick
2 or 3 sprigs thyme, picked
1/4 c. walnuts (1 oz.), toasted and finely chopped
2 to 3 T. unsalted butter
minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
freshly grated Parmesan

Bring 6 quarts of water to the boil in a large stock/pasta pot. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, place the squash in a small sauté pan along with the cream and the thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and gently simmer (you don't want the cream to boil over or thicken too much) until tender. This should only take 2 or 3 minutes. When the squash is tender, remove from the heat and keep warm.

When the pasta is ready, drain in a colander, being sure to reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan and add the butter, walnuts, and the cooked squash and cream. Stir and toss to coat the pasta with the cream. Add reserved pasta water as necessary so that the noodles are coated in a fluid sauce. Let the pasta sit for a minute before serving since the starch from the noodles will thicken the cream a bit and tighten the sauce. Toss to recheck the sauce consistency, adding more pasta water if necessary. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve garnished with parsley and Parmesan. Serves 2.


Unknown said...

Hi Paige,

I just want to let you know how much I am enjoying your blog...I've never taken one of your classes, but several years ago I met you at Whole Foods where I worked at the time in the bakery...my name is Chelsea..you may or may not remember me..Anyway, somehow by happenstance, I landed on your site and I am so glad I did! I have been glued to reading your recipe posts and musings every chance I get:) I appreciate your great writing and the thoughtfulness in your approach to cooking and baking..thanks so much!

Paige said...

Hi Chelsea,

Of course I remember you--I have missed seeing you at Whole Foods. Thank you so much for leaving a comment...and for your kind words! I'm really glad you are enjoying my blog.

Katrina said...

We just got a new cooktop installed. It looks fantastic. But it's got some issues with gas output, so we have no stove right now.
This dinner looks GREAT. I'll take a serving for 6, please. ;) Sigh.

Katrina said...

Have you ever thought of packaging and freezing (and shipping) your food? ;)