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End-of-Summer Baked Penne

October 8, 2009

Baked Penne

This baked penne really felt like my last hurrah to summer: chock full of summer’s produce, corn, zucchini, tomatoes, but baked in the oven, which heats up my little house quite nicely when it’s suddenly dropped to 50 degrees outside. I realize October might seem pretty far past summer, but it’s really only a few weeks since the official season change, and people do seem to be pulling the last tomatoes off their vines right about now. Not me, though. Mine gave up the ghost ages ago. So I think this is an excellent early fall dinner, to use up the last of the over-abundant zucchini and get you ready for casseroles and slow cookers and braises galore as the days cool off.

I originally saw this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma site, but I have to say their proportions seemed a little crazy. Eight zucchini? Really?! My skillet is just not that big. Of course, their recipe is meant to feed eight people, and I really only wanted to feed one, with a few days of leftovers. Some recipe rearranging skills were definitely in order.

This is another recipe that’s not really a quick weeknight special. But it was wonderful for a quiet Friday evening at home. It probably took an hour, start to finish, and while it was in the oven I enjoyed a glass of wine and a video chat with my parents and adorable niece, Eliana. Oh, the wonders of modern technology.

Zucchini

End-of-Summer Baked Penne
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

  • 1/2 box of whole-wheat penne (about 6 or 7 ounces)
  • olive oil (probably about 4 or 5 T)
  • 1 ear of sweet corn, kernels removed
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into half-rounds
  • 1/4 onion, diced (I used yellow, but a red onion might be very good here)
  • 2 roma tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 pinch of dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • a good sized handful of chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 c. shredded mozzarella
  • a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil, and cook the pasta until it’s almost done. Drain and set aside.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the corn kernels, season with salt and pepper, and cook until slightly golden, about four or five minutes. Transfer the corn to a large bowl and set aside.

Last of the sweet corn

Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet, and add the zucchini, cooking in batches until the zucchini is soft and starting to brown. You want to cook in batches so you don’t crowd the zucchini and make it cook unevenly. The zucchini should be able to lay in a single layer in the pan. Try not to stir it around too much, so it has a chance to brown in a lovely and delicious way. Once each batch is cooked, add it to the bowl with the corn. Add oil to the pan as needed so you’re not cooking zucchini in a totally dry pan.

Once the zucchini is all cooked, heat a little more oil in the same skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about two or three minutes before adding the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Tomatoes and Spices

Once the tomatoes have softened a little and started to form a sauce, stir in the tomato paste and the wine. Continue to cook over medium high heat until the liquid has reduced by about half and you have a tasty tomato sauce. Now stir the reserved pasta and the tomato sauce together into the bowl with the corn and zucchini. Stir in about two-thirds of the mozzarella, and pour it all back into the same skillet you cooked everything in. Top with the rest of the mozzarella and the Parmesan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the pasta has started to brown a little on top.

Baked Penne

The corn stays just a little crunchy, the tomatoes are perfectly tangy, and the cheese melds it all together. The vegetables aren’t overwhelmed by seasoning, and the whole-wheat pasta adds a nice, hearty bite. Perfect for a cool October evening, and a great way to say good-bye tomatoes, hello butternut squash.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2009 11:58 am

    can we say YUMMM!!! This looks to die for!! :) Thanks for the recipe!

    • October 9, 2009 3:49 pm

      It was pretty good! The cheese made it, and I have to say I’m not sure how delicious it would be without. But definitely an excellent dinner.

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