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pasta d’estate

This post was created in partnership with Barilla. All opinions are our own.

Last month, Husbands That Cook turned 4! On April 29, 2015 we published the first two recipes on our website—Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies and Penne with Zucchini and Lemon. If someone were to tell us back then that we would soon have our own cookbook, we wouldn’t have believed it for a second. What began as a hobby and a creative outlet where we could share recipes with our friends and family quickly turned into a full-time gig. In just 4 years, we’ve had opportunities to travel all across the US, learning about exotic flavors and inventive cooking techniques, and meeting so many new friends along the way. But one thing hasn’t changed since day one—we are still obsessed with pasta! So today, to celebrate our 4-year blog anniversary, we thought what better way to do it than with a vibrant summer pasta featuring fresh basil, garlic, and colorful heirloom tomatoes. Let us introduce you to our newest recipe: pasta d’estate—it’s as romantic as it sounds.

We were literally high-fiving in the kitchen after tasting this pasta dish for the first time. We are thrilled to be working with Barilla again, and this week they gave us a fun challenge. They asked us to create a recipe that follows the Mediterranean Diet—and for those of you who haven’t heard of it before, don’t be alarmed by the word “diet.” Here, it simply refers to a healthy way of eating inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of the Mediterranean region. Known as one of the healthiest diets in the world, it is based on simple ingredients that are probably in your kitchen already, like extra-virgin olive oil, legumes, lean proteins, vegetables, and of course, one of our favorite parts of the Mediterranean Diet: pasta.

You too, will be virtually high-fiving with us after you try this dish. Our challenge for the week was to create a recipe using the Barilla Italian Pasta Recipe Builder, a helpful template to make hundreds of different pasta dishes using various combinations of flavors and ingredients. In this quick and easy recipe, Barilla Collezione Penne is cooked until al dente then tossed in a zesty sauce made with sautéed garlic, heirloom tomatoes, summer zucchini, and cauliflower. Topped with fresh basil, baby spinach, grated pecorino romano cheese, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a sprinkling of raw garlic, it doesn’t take a psychic to predict that pasta d’estate will be on heavy rotation in your household this summer. And for more pasta inspiration, check out our previous collaborations with Barilla: vegetarian spaghetti carbonara and bucatini pistachio pesto! Buon appetito!

Pasta d’Estate
Serves 6 to 8

1 16-ounce (454 g) package Barilla Collezione Penne
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces (113 g) cauliflower florets (about 1/2 a small head), coarsely chopped
4 ounces (113 g) zucchini (about 1 small zucchini), cut into 2-inch sticks
1 teaspoon salt, divided
3 large garlic cloves (15 g), minced and divided
2 cups (355 g) coarsely chopped heirloom tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes), plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
4 ounces (113 g) baby spinach (about 4 cups, packed)
1 ounce (28 g) pecorino romano cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup), plus more for garnish
1/2 ounce (14 g) basil leaves, sliced into thin strips (about 1/4 cup), plus more for garnish

Fill a large pot with 4 to 6 quarts of water, adding 1 teaspoon of salt per quart of water. Bring to a boil, then add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than the package directions indicate—the pasta will still be quite al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, set a large deep skillet over medium heat. When hot, pour in the olive oil, then add the cauliflower, zucchini, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add half of the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 cup of the boiling pasta water. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

Once the pasta is ready, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, and drain the pasta. Transfer the drained pasta to the skillet with the vegetables and add the spinach. Toss and cook briefly, just until the spinach wilts—about 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat, then stir in the pecorino cheese, basil, and the remaining raw minced garlic. Toss to combine, adding more pasta water a few tablespoons at a time if it seems dry. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve immediately while hot, topped with chopped tomatoes, sliced basil, and additional pecorino cheese. Enjoy!