Penne with Ricotta Salata, Grilled Zucchini, and Onions

When summer’s first zucchini arrive in my garden, I cook them every way I can think of. Ricotta salata is a pressed and aged ricotta cheese similar to feta but less salty. In this pasta dish, it’s the perfect foil for the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the charred flavor of the zucchini.


  • 2 zucchini, cut into slices ¼ inch (6 mm) thick
  • 4 Tbsp (2 fl oz/60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
  • ¾ lb (375 g) penne or other small pasta
  • ¼ lb (125 g) ricotta salata cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler


In a bowl, combine the zucchini, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Toss to coat well. Set the zucchini aside.

Preheat a grill to medium-high and oil the grill rack. Arrange the zucchini in a grill basket and grill, turning several times, until golden on both sides, 10–12 minutes. Set aside.

In a frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the butter foams, add the onion and reduce the heat to medium. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns mahogany in color, 15–20 minutes. Keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the penne, stir well, and cook until the pasta is al dente, according to package directions.

Drain the pasta and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Add the onion and any pan juices, the grilled zucchini, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and one-half of the cheese. Toss well. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve at once.