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The living is easy when pasta is served warm with grilled toppings.

By Adam Ried
August 30, 2009

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Warm or room-temperature pasta is a simple, satisfying summer staple. Grilling whatever you pair with the pasta makes a good thing even better, giving the dish the technique’s telltale look and flavor.

Pasta goes well with innumerable meats, fish, and veggies, including most anything from abundant late-summer farmer’s markets; these dishes are a breeze to vary according to taste or to what’s on hand. For instance, the first recipe is wonderful with grilled shrimp, or even chicken, in place of the sausage. Squash or mushrooms can stand in for the asparagus in the second recipe, and in the last recipe, you can replace the sardines with grilled shrimp or squid. The choice is yours. And to make sure the pasta’s warm for serving, I drop it into boiling, salted water about 5 minutes before I’m done with the rest of the cooking.

Pasta with Grilled Chicken Sausage and Zucchini and Grilled Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves 4 to 6

1 large lemon, scrubbed and halved crosswise

5 small zucchini (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

4 chicken sausages (about 1 pound)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme

1 pound stubby pasta, such as pipette rigate, cooked

1 cup finely crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)

½ cup chopped fresh basil, parsley, mint, or chives, or a mixture

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high. Meanwhile, brush the cut sides of the lemon and the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and season the zucchini with salt and pepper. If using a gas grill, adjust burners to medium-high.

Grill the lemon (cut side down), the zucchini, and the sausages until the lemons are warm, about 7 minutes (set aside), the zucchini is tender and grill-marked, 12 to 14 minutes, and the sausages are cooked through and grill-marked, about 18 minutes. Cut the zucchini and sausages into chunks and set aside in a large bowl.

Squeeze the juice from the grilled lemon. In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice, garlic, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and remaining olive oil to blend well. Add the cooked pasta, feta, and the vinaigrette to the zucchini and sausage and toss. Add the herbs, toss, and serve at once.

Pasta with Grilled Asparagus, Olives, and Goat Cheese

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds medium-thick asparagus spears

1/3cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 large shallots, finely chopped

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered lengthwise

1 pound stubby pasta, such as orecchiette, cooked

½ cup crumbled firm goat cheese (about 2 ounces)

¾ cup chopped fresh basil

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If using a gas grill, adjust burners to medium-high.

Grill the asparagus until tender and grill-marked, about 10 minutes. Cut into 1-inch lengths and set aside in a large bowl.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the remaining olive oil. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant and light gold, about 1½ minutes. Add the crushed red pepper, shallots, and wine, then increase the heat to medium and simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until wine has reduced and mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Add olives and 1 teaspoon salt, stir to mix, and cook to heat the olives through, about 1 minute.

Add the cooked pasta and the oil mixture to the bowl with the asparagus and toss well to mix. Add the goat cheese and almost all of the chopped basil, and toss to mix. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the pasta, and serve at once.

Pasta with Grilled Sardines and Fennel

Serves 4 to 6

2/3cup extra-virgin olive oil

1½ tablespoons fennel seed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated zest and 3 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

3 anchovy fillets, minced

2 medium fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds)

Salt and pepper

2 pounds sardines (10 or more), butterflied (see Kitchen Aide)

1 pound stubby pasta such as farfalle or fusilli, cooked

2/3 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water and drained

1/3cup pine nuts, toasted

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

In a small skillet over medium heat, mix ½ cup olive oil, fennel seed, garlic, lemon zest, and anchovies. Heat the mixture, swirling, until it just begins to sizzle, and set aside.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high. Cut stems and feathery fronds off fennel bulbs; chop and reserve 1/3 cup of the fronds. Remove any tough layers and slice vertically into ½-inch-thick pieces. In a bowl, toss fennel, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Brush the skin sides of the sardines with the remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

If using a gas grill, adjust burners to medium-high. Grill the sardines skin side down until the skin is grill-marked and flesh is opaque, 4 to 5 minutes, and set aside. Grill the fennel until grill-marked and tender, about 14 minutes. When the fennel is cool enough to handle, roughly chop it.

In a large bowl, toss the pasta, fennel and reserved fronds, sardines, raisins, pine nuts, and most of the parsley to mix. Add the oil mixture from the skillet (straining out the fennel seeds) to the pasta mixture, the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, and toss to mix. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

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