We came home to a garden gone wild and a squash the size of a softball bat. It’s that time of year, though frankly it’s been such a cold summer that this freak of nature represented the entirety of our squash harvest to date. And the thing didn’t exactly come about easily; I had hand-pollinated it carefully, using a neighbor’s squash blossom, so you bet I was going to eat it, tough skin, adolescent seeds, and all.

In fact we’d just talked giant squash while in Maine. My mother-in-law Sally, who can cook her way out of any jam, had let slip that she liked to stuff the behemoths. She was on to something; I envisioned squash baked with feta, pine nuts, mint, and parsley. But back home I was intent on making something even simpler, sauteed zucchini tossed with fresh basil and parmesan and eaten over pasta. I think basil gives some life to squash’s slight, bland sweetness. Even better is sauteed zucchini tossed with pesto; something about that amalgam captures basil’s flavor in a way that a sprinkling of fresh leaves just can’t.

Recipe: Pasta with Zucchini and Basil

Penne, or other pasta / 1 medium zucchini squash / 1 clove garlic, minced / salt / pinch hot pepper flakes, optional / 2 tbls pesto, or 1 tbls olive oil + several torn leaves fresh basil + pepper + parmesan cheese

Cook and drain pasta. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high. Cut zucchini into matchsticks. Swirl vegetable oil in hot pan then add garlic plus a sprinkle of salt. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add squash and optional pepper flakes and continue sauteing until squash is just cooked, 2-3 minutes. The squash should be sweet and juicy but retain its color; translucence signals overcooking. Remove pan from heat. If using pesto, toss squash with pesto and pasta and serve. If not, toss squash with olive oil, torn basil, salt if needed and black pepper, then mix with cooked pasta and parmesan cheese. Serves 2.

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