A delicious and colorful sauce of vine-ripened tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini and fresh basil celebrates the bounty of the summer garden, and it's a great way to incorporate wholesome produce in your main meal. Bacon adds a smoky nuance, but it's optional if you prefer a vegetarian version.
This super-flavorful combination is great served over whole wheat penne, but any shape pasta will suffice. Whole wheat pasta is a much healthier choice than pasta made with semolina (white) flour. Although it has a chewier texture, it also contains about two-thirds more fiber, a bit more protein and fewer calories than semolina pasta. Its mild, nutty flavor marries beautifully with our chunky garden-fresh sauce. If you can convert your kids to eating whole wheat pasta once in a while (or even all the time), they'll reap its nutritional benefits and learn to love its nutty taste.
If your kids are interested in helping you make this meal, prepping the vegetables is good practice for their dicing skills. Once the prep work is done, this dish comes together in the time it takes to bring the water to a boil and cook the pasta.
Bring at least 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions or until the penne is tender but not mushy.
Meanwhile, place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until crispy. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spatula to several layers of paper towels to drain. Remove the bacon fat from the skillet and discard.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini starts to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the corn to the skillet. Cook for two minutes to warm the kernels. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes, watching carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn.
When the pasta is cooked, remove 1 cup of pasta cooking water and set it aside. Drain the pasta in a colander and then return it to the pan. Add the bacon, tomatoes, and basil to the mixture in the skillet and cook until the tomatoes are heated through, about 2 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste, then add the sauce to the pasta, stirring gently to combine. If the mixture is dry, add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water and stir to blend, adding more as needed. (Whole wheat pasta doesn’t contain much starch, so it doesn’t lend the same creaminess to a sauce as you might expect from semolina pasta).
Divide the hot pasta among 4 plates and pass the Parmesan at the table for garnish, if you like.