When no one else is around for dinner and I get hungry, chances are I’ll whip up some pasta for myself. As anyone who cooks for one knows, it’s one of the best ways to make a single-serving portion, and as everyone in the world knows, pasta is just about the best foil for whatever ingredients and leftovers you have in your fridge, healthful or not, vegetarian or meaty, plentiful or meager.
Sometimes when you’re cooking for one, things can definitely get austere. Though I’ll always go to the trouble to fix myself something, I won’t necessarily make from scratch the types of garnishes and flavor boosters that transform a meal into something special, a Plain Grilled Cheese into an Antipasti Panini, a bowl of quinoa with olive oil, thyme, and Parm into Nutty Quinoa Cakes. What I make is vegetarian nine dinners out of ten, and I’d say about 50% of the time it features an egg, usually fried.
Yet one of the easiest ways to turn a relatively mundane bowl of pasta into an incredibly mouth-watering one also happens to be an ingredient that I can’t use when I’m cooking for many of the people in my life–cream. So often, people eschew high-fat and dairy products, that if I’m cooking for a group (or just for Alex), I’ll tend to leave it to cheese on the side to enrich my pasta. But not so when I’ve got a little bit of cream in the fridge leftover from this or that. Then, I add it to my pasta, cook it down a bit, and allow it to become part and parcel of any type of simple sauce, ever so slightly reminiscent of good alfredo, and every bit as comforting.
If you believe the creamier the better, be sure to check out the ultimate in rich pasta, Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter.
And, just in case you’re sick of zucchini, creamy pasta or no creamy pasta, next week we’ll be featuring a full guide to getting through the fantastically plentiful yield of it. Stay tuned!
From my kitchen, eating vegetarian comfort food, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Creamy Zucchini Orechiette
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
freshly ground pepper
1 cup dried orechiette
2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute, then turn the heat up to medium-high and add the zucchini. Cook, stirring occassionally, until the zucchini is fully cooked and brown in spots. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and half of the basil and stir to combine.
Turn the heat to medium-low and add the cream. Stir, then add the lemon juice and zest. Let the cream cook, reducing, for about 5 minutes. It should thicken, coating the zucchini. Taste for salt, correcting as needed, and grind in some fresh pepper.
Cook the pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Add the cooked pasta to the creamy zucchini mixture and toss to distribute. Add the remaining basil and most of the cheese. Toss again, pour into a bowl, and serve immediately, topped with the rest of the cheese.