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Favorite Summer Pasta Dishes


Italian foods are seasonal, with rich foods during the winter to keep the chill at bay, and lighter, more refershing dishes in the summer to help us deal with the heat. Here's a selection of summer pasta recipes I especially like.

Spaghetti with Pesto Sauce

When it's really hot little refreshes more than this tasty Ligurian mixture of basil, grated cheese, garlic and olive oil. You can either use the sauce to season just pasta, or adopt the Ligurian tradition of boiling peeled diced potatoes and string beans with the pasta, and season everything with pesto. Quite nice!

Pomarola, or Marinara Sauce

What's known as marinara in the US is called Pomarola in Tuscany, and it wouldn't quite be summer without it. Italians keep an eye on the price of sun-ripened San Marzano (plum) tomatoes, and as soon as they start to drop in July begin to make this sauce by the potload, some for immediate consumption and the rest for the fall and winter months. It's perfect for pizza too, and as an ingredient in other dishes.

Penne All'Arrabbiata

The word "arrabbiata" means angry, and refers to the healthy jolt of red pepper that accompanies this Roman sauce; the simplest versions that you'll encounter in Roman trattorie have just garlic and hot pepper to bolster the tomato, whereas this version, from a cookbook, also has onions and pancetta. It's very nice on a hot day.

Pasta all'Ammiraglia, a tomatowey pasta salad

Unlike the above, this is chilled, and is ideal when the asphalt starts to melt. Its only shortcomings, if one can call them that, is that the tomatoes really should be sun-ripened, and that even a big bowl will vanish much faster than you might expect.

Pasta alla primavera (inoltrata): A (late) spring pasta primavera

Bell peppers and eggplant play off each other beautifully, and tomato is the perfect foil for both, so it's small wonder that this sauce should be good. It's also quite quick to make.

Pasta alla Puttanesca

A puttana is, well, a lady of the evening, and this zesty olive and caper-laced tomato sauce is said to be something she could cook up during the time it took her to deal with a client, and enjoy thereafter. Assuming he had no sense of smell, however, because if he did he could very well refuse to leave. Yes, made well, it's that good.

Linguini with lemon and ginger

New ingredients (when I moved to Florence in 1982 ginger was almost unknown) lead to new dishes, and here's Teresa De Masi's lemony, gingery pasta sauce for linguini. Quite nice, and extremely refreshing.

Rigatoni con gli zucchini, with zucchini

Though one can get zucchini year round, they really come into their own in the summer months, and it's well worth planting a garden to enjoy them at their freshest. One can do all sorts of things with them, but this simple pasta sauce is one of the nicest.

Sugo Finto

True sugo is a meat sauce, and is strictly winter fare. However, if you prepare the herbs as usual, omit the meat, and increase the tomato, what emerges from the pot is remarkaply refreshing. In short, a perfect summer pasta sauce.

Spaghetti alle vongole, with clams

I prefer clam sauce "in bianco," i.e. without tomato, and though this is better if you start with live clams, it is also quite tasty with canned clams, and easy enough to make with reduced equipment that I have even made it while camping. Not that one must camp to enjoy it -- quite the contrary, we enjoy it often in the summer months.

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