Summer squash reproduces so energetically that calling it prolific is understating the case. Still, why not take advantage of its bounty? Here I slice the squash into long ribbons and employ it as “pasta.” Use a mandoline (be sure to use the guard that comes with it), although a Y-shaped peeler will also work. The resulting “pasta” is more flavorful and less caloric than pasta itself.
I coat the sliced squash with a creamy sauce based on low-fat cream cheese, sometimes called Neufchatel, which is lower in fat and calories than full-fat cream cheese and also lighter in texture. And it’s one of the few dairy products that can be heated in a sauce without curdling in the process.
Summer squash is so tender and delicate that it’s easily overcooked and turned into mush. The goal is to cook it so that it retains a bit of bite, just like pasta al dente. Accordingly, cook it briefly, stirring gently with tongs. Actually, you don’t even stir it; just lift it up and move it around. If you sliced the squash with a mandoline, the “pasta” will likely be thicker than if you used a peeler and will probably require three full minutes to cook. If you used a peeler, you may need no more than two minutes. Again, you want it to turn out tender with a hint of firmness.
Summer squash gives off a lot of water as it cooks, which tends to dilute the sauce. That’s why I advise you to remove the cooked squash from the skillet (to keep it from overcooking) and then reduce the sauce. Boiling off the extra water in this way helps concentrate the sauce’s flavor and make it creamy. Once you’ve reduced the sauce, add back the squash.
For a vegetarian dish, omit the prosciutto and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Serve with a tossed green salad or some dressed sliced tomatoes, and a slice or two of crusty bread.
SUMMER SQUASH RIBBON “PASTA” WITH LEMON CREAM SAUCE
Start to finish: 40 minutes (30 active)
2 pounds medium summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash or a mix)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 ounces Neufchatel (1/3-less-fat cream cheese)
Salt and black pepper
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto cut into strips, optional
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts, almonds or pistachios
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
Nutrition information per serving: 225 calories; 139 calories from fat; 15 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 43 mg cholesterol; 547 mg sodium; 12 g carbohydrates; 4 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 13 g protein.
Note: Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”
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