Orecchiette are typically paired with broccoli rabe or tomato-based meat sauces, but the sturdy shape is also ideal for carrying an amalgam of grilled summer vegetables. You can vary the vegetables used here; just be sure to cut them into pieces that match the size of the pasta.
Orecchiette with Grilled Zucchini and Leeks
Kosher salt for blanching basil and cooking pasta
1/2 cup (1/2 oz./15 g.) fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, quartered lengthwise and thoroughly cleaned
1 lb. (500 g.) small zucchini, about 6 oz. (185 g.) each, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb. (500 g.) orecchiette
3 oz. (90 g.) medium-aged sheep’s milk cheese such as pecorino toscano or pecorino sardo
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill, or preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Have ready a bowl of ice water. Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt and the basil and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain, and then immerse the basil in the ice water. Drain again, pat dry with a paper towel, and chop. In a blender, combine 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) of the olive oil and the basil and process until the basil is pureed. Set aside to let the basil infuse the oil.
If grilling the vegetables, in a large bowl, combine the leeks, zucchini and the remaining 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) olive oil and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Arrange the vegetables on the grill rack and grill, turning as needed, until nicely browned on both sides and tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the grill, let cool just until they can be handled, and then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch (6-mm.) pieces. Season with sea salt to taste while still hot. Cover to keep warm.
If roasting the vegetables, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the leeks, zucchini and the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, then spread out in a single layer. Roast until golden brown and crispy on the edges, about 25 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the oven, let cool just until they can be handled, and then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch (6-mm.) pieces. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste while still hot. Cover to keep warm.
While the vegetables are cooking, in a large pot, bring 5 qt. (5 l.) water to a rapid boil. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and the pasta, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to package directions.
Drain the pasta and transfer to a warmed large, shallow serving bowl. Add the basil oil, roasted vegetables and pepper to taste and toss until well combined. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the top. Serve right away. Serves 4.
Find more recipes for fresh, dried and stuffed pastas in Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book.