In two short weeks, Elizabeth is getting married in the British countryside, and Dave and I are going to be there. We’ll have two weeks of UK adventure, and we’ve got a solid lineup so far: hen/stag-do’s to attend, Henley races to cheer on, Welsh mountains to hike, and lots of family to see – not to mention a wedding to cry through. While we’re lucky to be staying with family for most of the trip, we’ll be in hostels for a few nights too, which reminded me of my go-to hostel dinner: pasta with tomatoes & zucchini.
As much as I enjoy meal planning and long afternoons in the kitchen, they have no place in my travel agenda. I can cook at home. But I’m also a tight-budget traveller, so restaurant eating’s never figured large in my adventures abroad. To compromise, I search out hostels with kitchens, and often end up making variations on this pasta dish. I like pasta-based meals because dried pasta is light to carry and cheap – easy to justify bringing with you to the next place, and easy to leave behind if there’s just no extra room in your bag. Pasta also fills a girl up, which is no small perk when you’ve spent the day trekking through a new city. And the sauce is a favourite of mine not only because you can use up the purchased ingredients in one go (goat cheese excepted – leftovers can go on tomorrow’s sandwiches), but because it adapts so easily to an oddly-stocked kitchen.
Let’s say the kitchen has only a pot, knife and fork. That’s cool. I boiled the pasta and topped it with chopped fresh tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon, and some crumbled goat cheese (tiny travelling splurge of epic flavour proportions). But let’s say there’s also a frying pan and cooking oil – now sauteed zucchini and garlic can come into play. And if I’m working out of my kitchen at home with all my pantry to choose from? I throw in a handful of nuts.
I love everything about this dinner. Lazy occasional stirring at the stove, the goldening-garlic smell, the way the goat cheese melts into a sauce, and the flavours that are tangy and hearty at the same time – plus it’s affordable, filling, and good for you.
As if I needed another reason to be excited for this trip.
NOTES: If you want to make this gluten-free, opt for gluten-free pasta or spoon the sauce onto an omelette. If you’re making this in your own kitchen instead of a hostel, know what it goes really well with? Slow-roasted grape tomatoes. If you’ve got some in your fridge, add a few spoonfuls instead of the first handful of fresh tomatoes, and skip the finishing lemon juice. You’re welcome.
Summer Pasta with Tomatoes & Zucchini
olive oil for the pan
1 zucchini, sliced into coins
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 handfuls of tomatoes (any size)
salt & pepper
1 lemon, halved
3 tbsp goat cheese
small handful of pine nuts (optional)
2 servings of hot pasta
1. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the coins begin to brown and soften. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Add another drizzle of olive oil if necessary.
2. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes into bite-sized chunks. (If they’re cherry or grape tomatoes, just halve them.) Add half of the tomato chunks to the zucchini. Stir, and continue cooking until the zucchini coins are cooked through. Remove from heat, and add remaining tomatoes and the handful of pine nuts. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
3. Fill two bowls with hot cooked pasta. Top each bowl with half of the pasta sauce, a squeeze from half a lemon, and half the crumbled goat cheese. Eat immediately.