Only a week ago I was sitting in a trattoria in the colorful Roman neighborhood of Trastevere, sipping a glass of chilled rosé, and tucking into a plate of homemade ravioli. My husband and I had just just spent two lovely weeks in Italy in celebration of our upcoming 20th wedding anniversary. The journey took us from tiny villages in southern Tuscany down to Pompeii and then the Amalfi Coast, and back to one of our favorite cities, Rome. It was a wonderful trip filled with delicious food and wine, museums, ruins, rolling Tuscan hills and the Mediterranean sea, farm and winery visits and gelato. Lots of gelato.
In case you find that image too perfect, I’ll share that while I was enjoying the rosé, it was over 100 degrees fahrenheit outside, and I was literally trying to keep from sweating into my food. We had 14 nonstop days of weather like that. Feel better?
Little did we know when we planned the trip, we’d be there in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in recorded history. That notwithstanding, we ate well at almost every meal and the one thing which rang true for me over and over was the old idea that “simple is better.” The best meals we had were often the ones with minimal ingredients and preparation; fresh pasta with a little butter and shaved truffles, steamed clams with white wine and garlic, anchovies and octopus fresh from the sea.
This pasta recipe is just that simple and a great way to use up some of that summer squash everyone has this time of year. Use any kind of pasta you want, fresh or dried, dice up some zucchini, add your butter, garlic, sage and cheese, and ecco, you’re done!
Pasta with Zucchini, Fresh Sage, and Butter
- 1/2 lb dried pasta, cooked
- 4 oz zucchini, diced 1/2"
- 4 oz yellow squash, diced 1/2"
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- .2 oz fresh sage, cut chiffonade (about 2 tablespoons)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 oz shaved Parmesan cheese, shaved
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta al dente, drain and reserve.
- Heat a large saute pan and add the oil. Add in the diced zucchini and saute for 2 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute for 1 minute more.
- Add in half the cut sage and stir to combine. Add the butter, allow to melt, and then add in the cooked pasta and 3/4 of the cheese, tossing to coat with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and then plate.
- Garnish with the remaining sliced sage and cheese.
Ask anyone what their favorite summer salad is and many people will say “potato salad”, “macaroni salad”, or “coleslaw”. But then ask them for their favorite recipe and odds are you’ll get a dozen different answers, typically including “my mother makes the best macaroni salad” or “my grandmother’s German potato salad is amazing”. Truthfully, each one of these recipes would be slightly different and still “the best”. Yet cross reference the ingredients of these recipes and you’ll get very different results. Some might include pickle relish, mustard or bacon while others would scoff at those ingredients. One thing’s for sure though, any dish with jello as an ingredient is not a “salad”.*
Classic macaroni salad, one made with either short cut or elbow shaped macaroni and a mayonnaise based dressing can be found in various forms from school lunches, to southern BBQ shacks to every deli case. These salads started in the late 19th century and early versions were often elaborate molded affairs. Pasta salads are an offshoot of this and typically use other forms of “macaroni” (shells, bow-ties, rotini) and are dressed with a vinaigrette style dressing.
The recipe for the Macaroni Salad below is courtesy of the my mother and really is “the best”. My mom makes this every summer, usually served with some sort of smoked pulled pork and it’s so good, people will come to dinner just because they hear it’s on the menu. We fight over the leftovers.
Do you have a favorite version of macaroni salad? Let me know in the comments below.
Ingredients for Classic Macaroni Salad
- 8 ounces macaroni (“salad” or “elbow” cut)
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
- ¾ cup diced celery
- ½ cup diced red onion
- ½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Boil the macaroni in salted water until tender. Drain and chill.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni, chopped hard boiled eggs, diced celery and onions, and chopped parsley.
- Into the bowl with the macaroni, add the mustard, sweet pickle relish, mayonnaise and stir to combine. Mix in the salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce and taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed and refrigerate. Check seasoning and texture before serving because sometimes the macaroni will need more moisture (mayonnaise) after absorbing some of the dressing while in the refrigerator
Classic Macaroni Salad
* The comment about jello is a nod to some of my coworkers who have an ongoing argument every year about if “jello salad” is a salad or a dessert. I am firmly in the dessert camp on that one.