Mom cooks pasta with zucchiniMom cooks pasta with zucchini

Between the heat, an unusually large number of migraines, road trips, and Calvin being away quite a bit, I haven’t been doing much cooking, and hence, much posting so far this summer. That last excuse may puzzle those of you who live alone or in two person households and cook all the time, but after twenty-eight years of obligatory family dinners I must say that the prospect of Calvin’s going off to college next month fills me with giddiness at the thought of the freedom of being able to sit in front of the evening news with a bowl of cereal or some scrambled eggs, or going out to eat if we want. My husband’s probably reading this and thinking, “Great, is this what I have to look forward to when I get home from work, a bowl of cereal?!” I’d be interested in hearing from any other empty-nesters out there – did you go through a period of not wanting to cook at all? Did cooking seem not worth it for one or two people, or does that smack of laziness and sloth? Of course if I’m not cooking I don’t have much reason for living; going to the dry-cleaners alone doesn’t take up much of my time…

As you can imagine, my CSA farm box has gotten ahead of me, what with not cooking much. There’s been a lot of zucchini and summer squash in it lately and the other night I found a recipe for pasta with shredded zucchini in Marion Cunningham’s Fannie Farmer Cookbook that was easy and satisfying. I used both yellow and green squash in it and fresh basil, and since I had some extra time I grated the squash, put it in a colander, salted it liberally, and let it drain for an hour or two over a bowl to get some of the moisture out of it, although the recipe doesn’t call for that. I also added some red pepper flakes for extra flavor.

Pasta with Zucchini from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, by Marion Cunningham, 1990 edition

  • 3/4 pound dried thin pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 cups grated zucchini (I used the grating disc of my Cuisinart)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup cream or milk
  • salt and pepper to taste (won’t need much salt if you salt the squash)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Grate and salt the squash, let drain if you have time as I mention above. Cook the pasta in a very large pot of boiling water, until just tender. Timing will vary with the size of the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Put the oil and garlic in a large wide skillet and cook over medium heat for a minute, add the red pepper flakes if using. Add the zucchini and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese and cream or milk and cook just till it bubbles and the cream cheese has melted. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the basil. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce. Serve with parmesan cheese to grate over the top.


This recipe looks perfect. I lost the discs that go with my food processor and keep kicking myself. I guess I’ll have to grate by hand.

That sounds tasty; I’ll have to try it.

Meanwhile, I can comment a little on the empty nest thing and cooking, although my situation differed from yours in a couple of ways.

The emptied nest was quite liberating in terms of when and what to cook. My daughter, however, was/is (though less so) a picky eater, so when she went away I could cook spicy dishes or weird dishes or just something different and not get sneered at.

Still, I did (and still do) occasionally go through a scrambled eggs and toast phase, but I still cook fairly regularly because I just feel so much better if I’m eating well.

So…enjoy your liberation, but if you like to eat (as I’m pretty sure you do), I’ll bet you’ll continue to cook pretty regularly but you’ll be doing mostly it for you (and your husband), not because it’s your duty.

I LOVE Marion Cunningham’s Fannie Farmer! (And The Supper Book, and The Breakfast Book…she’s amazing. Unpretentious, good food.)

I’m totally going to make this pasta for a quick and easy weeknight dinner – it’s stuff that’s always around during the summer. YUM!

Mary, isn’t it relatively inexpensive to replace the discs? I use mine frequently, especially the slicing disc! It makes such short work of scalloped potatoes and apple pie.

Thanks for the pep talk, Janet; you reminded me that now I can sprinkle the salad with blue cheese to my heart’s content!

Heath, I love all her books, too, especially those little ones.

I am a long way from being an empty-nester but I definitely enjoy NOT HAVING to cook every now and then. So when my husband is away, on rare occasions I choose to give Izzy his dinner and then just nibble on something by myself after he goes to sleep.

I do the cereal for dinner thing sometimes — particularly when it’s hot. My husband, and my son if he’s around, seem to manage on their own just fine.

My husband and I cook something very similar to this…it’s great for a hot summer day :)
We just had our last child leave the nest…..we are SO enjoying each other! My hubby is an excellent cook ( and I’m not too bad!), but when we are lazy and now that it is hot (finally…what happened to our 100 degree temps I am so use to?) we eat what a lot of grilled pugliese bread with olive tapenade on top, fresh tomatoes sliced on a plate with crumbled feta and balsamic, bit of olio ….bits of good food, eaten relaxing on the back patio, under the trees, glass o’vino…..the kids can visit, but they can’t move back home!!!!
It did take me awhile to get use to not cooking three squares of large portions and dessert each day, but I am glad to keep on learning!!

Yes, izzy’s mama, when the kids were small and my husband was away dinner was definitely more relaxed, likely to be scrambled eggs or grilled cheese, but as they grew older they were less satisfied with meals like that. And given that Calvin is 10 years younger than his brothers I actually had teenagers with big appetites in the house for a long time!

Julie, in the current heat wave I’m not even sure I can manage cereal…

Hi, Tina! What you and your husband are eating sounds wonderful, and like something I’m sure I could get used to. Whether my husband would be satisfied without a big hunk of meat, I don’t know.

LOL, Rebecca!!
You have a meat and taters hubby too?! Mine is much better about not having meat at every meal, but with age one mellows! When we do eat meat these days, it is fresh venison or a good cut of beef, or even better, fresh fish from the Pacific (when the wind isn’t howling and blowing him off the ocean before he even launches the boat!). Try the grilled bread on the BBQ and put a small peice of meat to grill and share…when we had hot summers, we used the grill daily…no way I would fire up the kitchen kids or not! It seems that the east cost has “our” summer….we have actaully been wearing sweatshirts at about 7 p.m. because it is too cool on our patio! We usually have over 100 for many days already, but low humidity. Think cool thoughts :)

Everything about this recipe is perfect and the ingredients proportions are spot on. For the meat-lovers I would suggest adding a tinge of bacon to really complete the recipe. It has been added to one of our routine family meals, it’s that good.

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