We were thinking about what we still had in the refrigerator when planning dinner the other night. We knew we had that prolific vegetable, zucchini, sitting in the produce drawer, along with a few ears of corn. At the same time, we’d just returned a cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher, by Cara Mangini, to the library; it had a recipe for zucchini and corn. Now, we didn’t even come close to using that recipe, other than the pairing of zucchini and corn. Everything else was pretty much the way we scratch up a meal when we can’t think of anything else.
So, yes, we’ll say this is our own recipe, a 100% scratched original, so try it and let us know what you think. Feel free to make any changes you want to match your tastes; that way it’s your recipe, which is a better thing by far.
If you’re not up for making your own pasta dough, feel free to use something like mini penne. We think that would be perfect. Now, if you don’t have a shallot lying around the house (we did), feel free to use about 1/4 cup of diced onion, instead. We think shallots are slightly-better tasting, but, for this dish, we’d use either. Think of the porchini mushrooms as being optional — we generally have some dried in the house, so we use them as a staple ingredient. Lastly, Parmesan cheese does not come in green shaker cans, no matter what’s printed on the label.
Procedure in detail:
Toast walnuts. All nuts taste better toasted, so we recommend that you get into the habit of toasting them. Depending on the amount, we’ll use either a small skillet (for small amounts of nuts) or the oven (larger amounts). For this, we placed the nuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirred and shook the nuts until the skins were starting to peel off, about 10 to 12 minutes. The skins are bitter, so we also rubbed any skin we could off the nuts. After that, we set them aside to add to the dish later.
Cook shallot. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. We didn’t always add salt and pepper when cooking onions, but, after doing it a few times, we find that we prefer it. It seems to help the onions cook faster, plus adding seasoning to the dish.
Add mushrooms. Toss in the mushrooms and give everything a stir. If you want, sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of that liquid is evaporated, 7 to 8 minutes.
Add zucchini and corn. Add the zucchini sticks, followed by the corn, and give everything a gentle stir. Be gentle so you don’t break apart the zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is cooked through.
Add wine and season. Add the wine and simmer, lowering heat if necessary, until about half of it has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Boil pasta. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions (or until done, if using homemade pasta). When the pasta is still a little toothsome in the center, drain completely.
Add pasta. Immediately stir the hot pasta into the corn-zucchini-mushroom mixture until it’s coated with the light wine sauce.
Add nuts and Parmesan. Stir in the toasted walnuts, followed by about half of the grated Parmesan cheese.
Serve. Divide among warmed bowls and top with extra Parmesan cheese. For pasta dishes, we almost always warm the bowls simply by placing them in a 200°F oven while we make dinner. Then it’s easy to pop them out, dish up, and warn everyone about the hot bowls.
Not bad, but, then, how can any dish that includes homemade pasta, nuts, and Parmesan cheese be bad? There’s nothing quite like the texture of fresh pasta: smooth, slightly chewy, and just downright delicious, it pairs great with other mild ingredients, such as zucchini and corn. The nuts are really nice, as they add texture, providing a crunchy contrast to the zucchini and mushrooms. Easy four stars for this dish.