One of the things I look forward to the most in the late summer and early fall is heading to a local farmer’s market. All of the delicious, mouth-watering produce and confections inevitably inspire me to try my hand at whipping up something healthy (or healthy-ish) and tasty. Last weekend, I happened to see some ripe, juicy tomatoes, brilliant green zucchini, and fresh summer squash. I sliced them up, turned them into a healthy and delicious sauce served over Penne pasta (with a little cheese, of course), and quickly had a dinner that was a hit with my whole family. Pro tip: if your kids come to the farmer’s market to help pick out the produce, I find that they are much more likely to sample whatever you whip up!
This quick recipe can be easily prepared for a weeknight dinner, is vegetarian, and can be prepared gluten-free if you choose a Penne that does not contain gluten (my personal favorite is Banza pasta, made from chickpeas). If you would rather a heartier meal, ground chicken or turkey could be browned and added into the sauce for a non-vegetarian alternative.
Pre-heat your oven to 350˚F, because the magic of this dish happens when it is finished in the oven. Next, boil some well-salted water and boil according to package directions. While your pasta is cooking, you can get started on the sauce.
Start by prepping your veggies. I like to slice everything at once and put them in separate prep bowls to make assembling the dish easier.
First, I diced the tomatoes and thinly sliced the zucchini and summer squash. These all went into separate prep bowls for later.
Next, you can either mince fresh garlic, or, like I did (because it was a weeknight) use a jar of minced or crushed garlic.
Heat about 3 T of good olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and add about 2/3 of the sliced summer squash and zucchini to the pan. Reserve some of the slices for the top of your dish (or if you are in a hurry, you can just add all the veggies to the sauce and top with the cheese – not quite a pretty, but just as tasty!). And add in all of the diced fresh tomatoes.
Let the veggies cook until they are soft and start to release their liquid – depending on the heat of your pan it should take about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for about a minute. Then add in the tomato paste, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper and stir to combine.
Simmer for a few minutes to let everything meld together. At this point, I like to give the sauce a taste to see if the salt needs to be adjusted. Then, add your cooked, drained pasta of choice to the skillet. If the sauce is too thick, you can use some of the pasta water to thin it out a little bit.
Now onto the good part (if you like cheese, and my family definitely likes cheese) – fold in 3/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and then transfer the whole gooey, delicious mixture to an oven-safe baking dish.
Now here’s your chance to make this regular weeknight dish a little fancy! I love the saying that we “eat with our eyes first,” and when I have a couple of extra minutes, I try to dress up the presentation a little bit.
Take your remaining thinly sliced zucchini and summer squash, and layer on top alternating the slices. Then, sprinkle with a little more (about 1/4 cup) shredded mozzarella.
Bake uncovered in your pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes, or until your veggies are soft and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Let it cool for a few minutes and dinner is served!
…and if you love Farmer’s Markets as much as we do, check out our Farmer’s Market Print Family Matching Pajamas!