Mild squash meets spicy sausage in this one-skillet pasta dish

Ann Maloney

THE WASHINGTON POST – I will admit I am going a little squash crazy right now. Summer squash are abundant, with readers reporting that they are getting a bounty in their CSA boxes. I cannot help grabbing a few each week at the grocery.

Sometimes I simply cut squash into thin slices, saute it with a little olive oil and minced garlic, sprinkle that with generous amounts of Parmesan and pepper – and dig in.

Summer squash are soft with thin skin that is edible. It’s true that zucchini and yellow squash are available year-round, but I crave them more this time of year. Also, this is the time when other varieties show up, especially at farmers markets, such as yellow and zephyr zucchini varieties. Or, maybe you’re seeing the fun-shaped pattypan squash around, as well.

The neutral-tasting vegetable slips easily into a savory take on clafoutis, frittatas and muffins. Squash also can be grated and turned into crispy pan-fried fritters or grilled and topped with a bright yogurt sauce and fresh herbs.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the Italian Sausage, Squash and Pasta recipe here.

Or you can throw together this squash skillet recipe, which is so adaptable that you probably can make it from whatever you have in your pantry or refrigerator.

The spicy sausage and squash pasta dish. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

For this version, I selected both zucchini and yellow squash, adding a little colour to the plate.

If you have a favourite jarred marinara or batches of homemade tomato sauce in the freezer, use that. Or do as I did here and rely on a can of quality finely chopped tomatoes and sprinklings of dry herbs to pull together a quick sauce.

The dish gets a kick of flavour from spicy Italian sausage and generous shake of crushed red pepper flakes.

You can try turkey or chicken sausages – both come in Italian-style, so you get that seasoning with less fat. Or switch to a meat-free sausage. Boca, Tofurky and Yves make vegetarian Italian sausage, for example. These will be firmer, so you may have to chop them before adding them to the skillet. Morningstar Farms makes an Italian sausage crumble, too.

The short, or mezzi, rigatoni provides a sturdy foundation for the soft squash and spicy sausage, but it would also be good with just about any pasta shape.

If you have access to fresh herbs, sub them in. Use about double the amount of dried herbs called for in the recipe. Prefer a chunkier sauce? Pick up a can of diced tomatoes rather than finely chopped.

I love a generous sprinkling of Parmesan on top of this dish. And, if my little potted patio herb is cooperating, a few fresh basil leaves as well.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE, SQUASH AND PASTA SKILLET

20 minutes

Six servings

INGREDIENTS

Two teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

One pound fresh hot Italian sausage, casings removed

1/2 cup (about two ounces), chopped yellow onion (from 1/2 onion)

3 zucchini and/or yellow squash (one to 1 1/4 pounds, total), sliced 1/4-inch thick

Three cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

One (28-ounce) can no-salt finely chopped tomatoes, with their juices

1/2 cup water, if needed

One pound whole-wheat or white mezzi rigatoni

Finely grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Fresh basil leaves, for serving (optional)

STEPS

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon, until just browned, about eight minutes.

Add the onion and cook, stirring, until just softened, about three minutes. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, dried basil, oregano, thyme and pepper flakes. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant, about two minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, increase the heat to high, stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the squash is softened, stirring occasionally, about eight minutes. Add about half cup water to the tomato can and swish it around. If the mixture gets too dry, add splashes of the tomato water.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. While the sausage mixture is simmering, boil the pasta, about three minutes less than the package directions indicate. Drain, reserving the pasta water. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss it with the sausage mixture to coat. Simmer, adding splashes of pasta water if the mixture is too dry, for about two minutes, until the pasta is al dente.

Serve the pasta, topping with grated Parmesan and basil, if desired. Nutrition | Calories: 621; Total Fat: 28g; Saturated Fat: 9g; Cholesterol: 58mg; Sodium: 594 mg; Carbohydrates: 64g; Dietary Fiber: 9g; Sugars: 8g; Protein: 28g.