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August Third Thursday: Pasta Prima Donna August 18, 2011

Posted by Toy Lady in Cook's Country, Cooking, Third Thursday.

Welcome to August’s Third Thursday – and may I ask, where did the summer go?


We may be three weeks into August already, but around here, that means Fresh Produce!  Everything in the world is in season, it seems, and we’d be crazy not to take advantage of that.

PhotobucketSo, while I’m enjoying my tomato harvest, I know it’s a fine line between “oh, look at all the lovely, lovely tomatoes” and “what the heck am I going to do with all these #@!% tomatoes?” if you know what I mean.

So I keep on the lookout for ideas – recipes that I can use that will keep the tomato glut under control, or at least manageable.

Fortunately, we received the August/September issue of Cook’s Country right about the time the tomatoes were starting to ripen, and right there, in the “30-minute supper” section of the magazine, was a recipe for Spaghetti with Summer Vegetable Sauce.

We like spaghetti.

PhotobucketAnd I, at least, love summer vegetables.

Plus Peeps was in New Jersey that weekend, so I didn’t inflict summer squash on him.

See, here’s the thing with Cook’s Illustrated, and, to some extent, Cook’s Country – they know what they’re doing.  The recipes may be a bit, well, fussy, but, when it comes down to it, you get out of it what you put into it.

Or, put another way, you’ll thank them later.


However, Cook’s Country is much more approachable.  Sure, they’ve got their little quirks (like melting half a stick of butter into ground beef for burgers to guarantee moistness – say!), but all in all, most of their recipes are designed for regular home cooks in a regular home kitchen – those of us without interns (or kids) to clean up after us.

PhotobucketAnyway, when I saw this recipe, I first thought “huh, this sounds a lot like pasta primavera which I like” and “oh, hey, Peeps is going to be at his mom’s one weekend, so I can enjoy zucchini and summer squash to my little heart’s content!”

Peeps is not a fan of zucchini or summer squash.  It’s just easier for me to enjoy them when he’s not suffering through them.  I’m a sport like that.


The only thing is that the original recipe calls for 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes.  Now, looking at my single cherry tomato plant, one would think that it was producing at least that much – every day!  But, alas, that’s not the case.  The tomatoes are tiny, and there don’t seem to be a lot ripe at any one time.   (I’ve always been kind of  torn about cherry tomatoes – are they cute little packages of tomato-y goodness, or are they a waste of garden space?  I can’t quite decide.)

Not to worry, though – I just chopped up 12 ounces of real tomatoes, that’s all.


While your pasta is cooking (I used penne rather than spaghetti – I’m a rebel like that), you make your sauce – melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, saute a chopped onion until it’s soft, then some thin-sliced zucchini and yellow squash  (one of each) and cook that.  Add a couple of cloves of minced garlic, then your diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup of dry white wine, and salt and pepper – about 1/2 teaspoon of each.

Let the “sauce” reduce – the vegetables will cook, and the flavors will concentrate and it’ll all be very nice.

PhotobucketOnce the liquid has reduced by half, and the pasta is cooked, it’s time to combine the two.   Reserve a bit of pasta water when draining, and toss the pasta with the sauce.

And now here comes the “secret ingredient” -when you toss the pasta with the sauce, add 6 tablespoons of basil pesto.  (Or, if you still have last year’s pesto in the freezer, and are cheering that you’ve something to use it in, you can use 3 ice cubes of it.)  And, as an extra bonus for me, I also had some of the dried tomato pesto from last fall in the freezer – I added a cube of that, too.  A little extra tomato never hurt anyone!

And here’s the thing.  This pasta was absolutely delightful.  The Boy and I enjoyed it for dinner, and we had 4 servings left.  I froze two, and had one for lunch the next day.  I was looking forward to the second for lunch the following day, but it had, um, disappeared.  I guess that’s a good thing, right?

Except for me, that is.

If you’d like to play along, leave a comment with a link to (or a description of) your Third Thursday project – tell us what you’re up to!  For loose (really loose!) guidelines, or if you want to check out some past Thursdays, they’re right here!


1. sjbraun - August 18, 2011

So timely — I needed a recipe for all my ripening tomatoes also! I have never used basil pesto. Sounds like now is the time to get some; I love the idea of freezing extra in ice cubes! I know what you mean about cherry tomatoes. They’re a pain to cut up, I think, yet my cherry tomato plants always seem to do better/produce better than my “regular” plants. A stick of butter into ground beef? Ack! I am having a heart attack just reading that! 🙂
Here’s my offering:

Your PB pie looks heavenly! And as for the tomatoes – ha! I’m actually thinking of just cutting them in half and tossing them in the freezer for now – I’ll be showing you why next week (as soon as I can get a decent photo!). 😀

2. judy - August 18, 2011

Late today but wow, that looks really good. Are you canning this year? Dog on Saturday…. that will take a lot of blogs! 🙂

😀 Thanks, Jude – it really was good. And yes, I plan to do some canning next weekend – we’re running low on tomatoes! I’m taking a couple of days off for that, The Boy’s birthday, and then a quick trip to NJ over Labor Day. Busy busy, that’s me. 😕

3. sjbraun - August 19, 2011

Looked so good that I’m making your pasta prima donna tonight … aren’t you proud of me for finding basil pesto at the store? 🙂 Thanks for the idea!

How wonderful! I loved this dish – and I’m sure you and at least some of your girls will. 🙂

4. Menu Plan Monday « Girls in White Dresses - August 22, 2011

[…] Pasta Prima Donna – confession: I actually made this Friday. But it was so yummy, I wanted to post the recipe […]

5. Menu Plan Monday « Girls in White Dresses - October 31, 2011

[…] Pasta Prima Donna – made it before; […]

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