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1 pound bite-sized pasta, I used a rustic orecchiette since it takes about the right amount of time to cook
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound sausage, sliced (optional)
1 cup chopped cauliflower stem or kohlrabi (optional)
6-8 small and tender assorted summer squash, cut into half moons
2 sweet peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
Boil 6 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons sea salt (double this if you use a light and flaky salt like kosher salt).
Add the pasta to your boiling water and give it a good stir.
In a very large skillet over medium-high heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the onion, a few pinches of salt, plus the sausage and/or cauliflower stems (if using), if not using the sausage add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté until the onion is translucent (about 4-5 minutes).
Add the chopped squash and za'atar and cook for 4-5 minutes more, then add the peppers and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Check if the pasta is done, then drain, reserving a large cup of the cooking water. If the pasta needs time you can just turn off the heat in your skillet, the residual heat will keep things from getting cold.
Mix the pasta in with the vegetables and stir well to combine, then start adding the pasta water bit by bit, just until you form a smooth sauce that coats the pasta.
Plate and garnish with a bit more za'atar if you like.
• I've had great results substituting any number of vegetables. Look for whatever looks great at your market and just remember that they will take different lengths of time to cook properly. So fresh peas will only need a few minutes, versus winter squash that you will need to cut small and/or par-cook. I've even had good luck boiling cut up new potatoes along with the pasta.
• When I'm feeling like something rich I like giving this dish the carbonara treatment, mixing in egg and grated Pecorino Sardo.
• I like eggplant in this dish also instead of the other veggies; toss small cubes with salt and Za'atar or Chios. I cook the eggplant in a covered skillet with olive oil, sliced garlic, and the liquid that comes out when you salt it. Once the eggplant is tender (about 15 minutes), uncover and cook until the water evaporates, then stir in the pasta, a bit of pasta water, and some grated cheese. Great with spaghetti or bucatini. Reduce the salt in the pasta water by 1/3 as the eggplant will be on the salty side.
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue
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