It’s been two days since I stepped off the Carnival Glory.  And still, the floor won’t stop rocking.

This made for a pretty interesting experience on the stationary bike yesterday when, every two minutes, I became absolutely sure that the room had tilted on some kind of axis and screamed that everyone in the room should “Man the decks!” and “Head for the lifeboats!”.

My fellow bicyclists were not pleased with me.  Although the treadmillers barely turned their heads. (It is New York after all.  When in doubt – avert your eyes.)


We had a pretty rocky last night, you see.  Heavy winds, strong downpours, lightning, thunder.

But don’t worry.  We coped by dancing.  Drinking.  Breaking into the ship’s spa in search of an open hot tub at 4AM.

We were trying to be rational in an irrational situation.  Because if the room is going to spin whether you’re sober or not, you might as well not be.   (Yes, this is how the future doctors of American think.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.)

And so now I’m pretty sure that this persistent rocking that I’m experiencing is not actually landsickness but some form of alcohol withdrawal.  Nice.


But wait.  This sort of talk warrants an explanation.

Hence the question – how does one end up on a cruise to St. John, New Brunswick with somewhere around eighty-five of her fellow MD/PhD students, the head of the MD/PhD program, and his administrative assistant?

Funny you should ask.  You see, every year in order to get NIH funding we need to go on some sort of a retreat. Usually student run, it involves putting us all in the same place at the same time while we give presentations about our research for two days straight.  And bond.  There is a lot of bonding.

Normally, this occurs at a conference center somewhere on Long Island or in upstate New York.  To which we are asked never to return when we are caught skinny dipping in the conference center’s pool at midnight/found drunk on the floor in the hallway outside our rooms/involved in some other form of ridiculously promiscuous behavior.

Having exhausted our conference center resources in the tri-state area, the program coordinator decided that so long as we were going to take part in such debauchery, she might as well plan to have the retreat somewhere where such behavior would go unnoticed.

And that was how I ended up on a five day/four night cruise to Canada.  That was also how I ended up having more fun than I think I’ve had all year.  MD/PhDs are just awesome.  Amazing people.  I love them.

The one place where the cruise was lacking in excellence, was in the food department.  I’m not sure what kind of a person it takes to mess up a caprese salad.  But they did it.  And so when I got home, all I wanted was to eat something delicious.  This pasta dish, from Mario Batalli’s Molto Gusto.  Was so.  It.  Pasta with zucchini and mint tossed in a creamy ricotta sauce.  Local, fresh ricotta mind you.  Ricotta so tasty that I will never be able to go back to the tubbed version ever again.

Now this.  This is what should have been served to us in the hot tub at 3AM.  And yes.  I will be writing that in my comment card.

Remember to send me your recipes for Regional Recipes: PUERTO RICO by the end of August!


Pennette with Summer Squash and Ricotta
Serves 4, adapted from Mario Batalli’s Molto Gusto

12 oz whole wheat penne
1 cup ricotta
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2-3 tbsp warm water
4 summer squash/zucchini, sliced lengthwise and then crosswise into half moons
1/2 cup mint, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup reserved pasta water

1. Set the water for the pasta to boil.  Make sure to add plenty of salt to it.  Batalli recommends 3 tbsp.

2. Whisk the ricotta together with the 2 tbsp olive oil.  Whisk in the parmesan cheese.  Whisk in the water, adding 2 tbsp at first and then adding a third only if you want a more smooth, spreadable consistency.  Set aside.

3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in the zucchini and saute for 4-5 minutes or until soft.  Meanwhile, hopefully your water is boiling by now.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente.  Drain the pasta, first reserving a 1/3 cup of pasta water.

4.  Add the pasta and the reserved water to the pan with the zucchini.  Mix well.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Steam together for 2 minutes.

5. Stir in the mint.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

6. Pour into serving bowls and top each with a dollop of the ricotta mixture.

This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted by the ever lovely Amy of Very Culinary.  I adore her.  You should send her a recipe. With pasta in it.

I am also sending this to Two For Tuesdays!  Local ricotta, local summer squash, local mint…all REAL FOOD.


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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87 Responses to Mario Batali’s Pennette with Summer Squash and Ricotta

  1. Katie says:

    Oh, the good ‘ol days. Our retreats were rather mundane, but we made up for that at conferences (how in the world did we wake up for 8 am presentations??). I really hope I don’t have to act like an adult now that I have a real job (oh wait, the profs were always crazier than the grad students… sweet!). This pasta looks amazing, and I’m glad you’re using summer squash again 🙂

  2. Suman Singh says:

    The pasta dish looks amazing..very tempting clicks.

  3. girlichef says:

    LMAO!! Oh man, sounds like good times 😉 Oh to be a passerby in NY…tee hee. You are on a summer squash roll…this sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing it w/ Two for Tuesdays, too!!

  4. Sounds like you had a great time with your group. I love these bonding trips that graduate students go on these days. Never had anything like that when I was in school! There was alcohol, though 🙂 Sorry about the stormy seas on your last night.

    What a delicious dish to get back your equilibrium!

  5. Pam says:

    I thought cruises were supposed to have excellent food!

  6. Biren says:

    Glad to hear you had a great time 🙂 This pasta look so fresh and summery. Would love to have some for lunch.

  7. It sounds like you guys had a crazy time. I’m sure there were stories. The crew in the galley need a cooking lesson from you. Caprese is pretty difficult to mess up. This looks like an awesome pasta dish.

  8. Debbie says:

    nice pasta…Mario would be proud!

  9. Stella says:

    Hey Joanne, ugh, that sounds kind of stressful yet hilarious. I don’t handle group school trips or the like well…My world would definitely have been spinning (smile).
    Ooh, and nice pasta-it looks so healthful!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Joanne, this dish rocks (the boat!). So fresh and local and perfect!

  11. Ameena says:

    I can’t imagine how much brillance was on that boat at once…how is it fair that people can earn not just an MD but a PhD too? I barely got my bachelors before I hightailed it out of school without a backwards glance. You and your people? Amaze me.

    As does this pasta. It looks fabulous!

  12. Katerina says:

    It seems that you had one heck of a time in this cruise. Regarding food let me tell you that for people like us, the food bloggers, who love good quality food and cook each and every day, the standards are very high. So a mediocre meal doesn’t really satisfy us, we always want the best, not necessarilly sophisticated but definitely something that is cooked with love and inspiration.

  13. Victoria K. says:

    Glad you had fun! This pasta looks great. I think everything in life is better with a little ricotta 😉

  14. Giovanna says:

    Hmmmm…… mental note, have Joanne pee in a cup to make sure she’s okay to work on me. : )
    That sounds like a great time I must admit! And the dish of course looks yummo!

  15. Amy says:

    Oh no! The food was sub-par? The only good thing about my cruise to Mexico years ago was the food. If it weren’t for the food, I certainly would have jumped over board. Although, I had low standards back then, so perhaps it wasn’t that good. Hm…I’ll be thinking about that one today. They certainly didn’t have anything like this ricotta pasta recipe. Which, btw, I will happily accept for PPN. It wouldn’t be the same without you!

  16. A terrific penne, love the combo of ricotta and squash!

  17. Christy says:

    Crappy food – good thing the alcohol was flowing freely! I love Mario’s food!

  18. Mo Diva says:

    Jo… i LOVE LOVE LOVE ricotta cheese. Growing up my grannie always had ricotta and my best memories include sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of warm rigatoni with a splash of homemade marinara and a glob of ricotta. COMFORT! To this day when i make baked ziti, i have a bowl of grandmas comfort… for tradition lol.
    This looks splendid! Im so glad you had a great time! But you were immensely missed! I dont know how i went on for so many days without your food porn!

  19. Swathi says:

    Glad you have wonderful time. Ricotta gives nice make over to the pasta love it.

  20. Satya says:

    pasta looks very delicious ..love the combo …tempting click too


  21. Delicious!
    Glad you had a good time, even if the cruise food was lacking. Yup, hard to get kicked out of the Maritimes..?

  22. Nelly says:

    Sounds like a blast! I really want to know exactly HOW the Caprese salad got wonked, though. That’s just…I mean…you don’t even have to boil water! The mind boggles!

  23. That ricotta looks amazing! Such a simple way to use up all that squash on hand. Sounds like a fun trip, hot tubs at 4am says it all!

  24. Megan says:

    I just put that cookbook onto my Amazon wish list.

    Is it Christmas yet?

  25. Julie says:

    haha i am LOVING your use of squash as of late! you know i always give a good drool over a nice dish that involves the yellows and greens! especially because they’re so abundant right now!

  26. S. says:

    This looks fantastic! Deee-lish.

  27. Kristin says:

    Sounds like you had fun, minus the boat rocking. Your pasta looks really yummy and light.

  28. Healthy and light pasta dish. Love the addition of the mint.

  29. elra says:

    Ricotta, parmesan and mints, I am sold!

  30. Cristie says:

    How wonderful that you loved your cruise. The rocking feeling will go away eventully. Back and forth, back and forth, you feel so silly because you’ll find yourself rocking on solid ground days after . . . Yellow squash coming out of my ears. This will be a lovely way to use some up.

  31. eula says:

    Your trip sounds fun! I felt the same several days ago when I got off the Norwegian Dawn (NY to Bermuda). So lucky you guys get to conference on a cruise ship!

  32. teresa says:

    it sounds like you had SUCH a blast! i remember after a similar trip it took a few days for the rocking to stop!

    the dish looks wonderful, i love how creamy it looks!

  33. So glad you had fun!! Sorry the food stank. Clearly you should put your blog address on the comment card so they know how to treat people to some fine cuisine!!

  34. Faith says:

    This dish really wowed me. I’m always looking for new ways to make zucchini and this one is brilliant…why have I not made it before?!

  35. Landsickness does not sound fun, but keeping alcohol at hand seems like as good a solution as any! And, fresh ricotta? There’s no going back now that I’ve tasted the good stuff. This meal sounds fresh and delicious!

  36. MaryMoh says:

    That must be so fun with your group. But I can also imagine all the craziness around….haha. Love your simple pasta dish.

  37. If the MD/PhD thing doesn’t work out, I think you have a place as a cruise chef–with your own key to the hot tub and liquor cabinet! = )


  38. tigerfish says:

    The pasta looks so different mixed up with those dollops of cheese 🙂 …..you have all the fun people around you, sweetie.

  39. Pam says:

    Sounds like you guys had a fun time on the cruise. I really need to try ricotta with pasta other than lasagna. This dish looks amazing!

  40. Clair says:

    That looks like an awesome dinner. I can’t wait to make it. After reading about your retreat, I think I need a new career path. My colleagues and I never have that much fun.

  41. Sounds like you had a fun cruise despite the dearth of tasty food. Love the combination of fresh summer flavors in this dish – especially the mint. Thanks for sharing!

  42. yepiatethat says:

    This looks delicious, sounds amazingly better than the Texas State Fair foods being talked about on my tv right now.

    Deep Fried Beer anyone?

  43. RamblingTart says:

    I’ve been hearing so much about fresh ricotta lately that I simply have to track it down and try it. 🙂 This dish looks so creamy and yummy, Joanne. SO glad you had such a fun time! 🙂

  44. Karla says:

    I’m bookmarking this for the next time I made fresh homemade ricotta! Yum!

  45. Shannon says:

    perfect way to use summer squash and zucchini 🙂 you guys bring a whole new meaning to rock the boat- ha!

  46. Simply Life says:

    YUM! What a great pasta dish!

  47. Reeni says:

    I can’t say I ever heard of bad cruise food before! But it sounds like you had a blast anyways. Lovin’ the ricotta and squash pasta!

  48. Cara says:

    I think it’s hilarious that people are always raving about cruise food. Seriously? It’s never better than “good” wedding food (except that’s a bad comparison because my wedding food actually was really good and trumps all other wedding food, of course.) I think people get so enamored (I like that work, by the way 😉 ) by the sheer quantity that the forget about quality.

    For the cruises I’ve been on, I’ve come home with some serious cravings as well.

  49. Kelly says:

    That sounds like very fun company to spend a cruise with. That pasta also looks amazing. I’m a sucker for good ricotta on just about anything and Mario Batali’s recipes have always turned out fantastic for me. He has one with caramelized onions and anchovies that is absolutely amazing or not having very many ingredients.

    As a sidebar, I’m a finalist in a recipe contest! I’d love your support. To vote, see my video here: http://bit.ly/bXKr5j and then click that you “like it.” (Note that you will have to log into your youtube account to vote and if you don’t have one, you’ll have to create one. I promise it only takes a minute!) If nothing else you get to see me look awkward on video. :-S

  50. Kelsey says:

    omg the 2nd to last picture is absolutely to die for! i know its simple, yet the creaminess when mixed together looks quite decadent 🙂


  51. Creamy and beautiful pasta, made me hungry…

  52. theUngourmet says:

    Your cruise sounds like fun. Too bad the food wasn’t better. Mmm. Fresh ricotta! I’d love to taste some of that. Your pasta looks de-lish!!

  53. That ricotta is mesmerizing. I’m pretty sure I would have eaten half of it by spoonfuls, maybe even fingerfuls, before I even made the recipe. Thanks for coming up with another summer squash recipe for T4T.

  54. Monet says:

    I just started my MFA program today, and I would love to go on a “retreat” like this. How much fun. And this recipe? Delicious. But I know you already know this. Fresh ricotta is the bomb.

  55. Wow that sounds like an awesome time. So glad you enjoyed the cruise (though I’m surprised the food was so blah). I’m lucky enough to have access to lots of fresh farmers market dairy in the DC area, but often the bus commute is too long to chance it. I may just have to beg the bf to drive me one day to get ahold of that amazing ricotta.

  56. Jo jo! I was SOOOO there with you on that cruise ship! My dad was a doctor and my mom a midwife-yep, they ARE a fun bunch and they can all party like its 1999! Glad you had a blast and am laughing at the comment about the cruise food! Everyone RAVES about the food on a cruise–that is unless they are true foodies like YOU and Me! I too would dig into that pasta like it’s going out of style! Thanks for sharing another hilarious story and great recipe on the two for tuesday hop! 🙂 Hugs. Alex@amoderatelife

  57. Lea Ann says:

    I’m loving all of these summer pasta dishes I’m seeing. This looks wonderful JoAnne

  58. A simple, but very delicious pasta dish. Looks especially good after tossed with ricotta mixture.

  59. Barbara says:

    Super you had such fun. Joanne! But the food? Sorry about that.
    Mario’s recipe more than makes up for it though!

  60. That is amazing! Yesterday, I was wondering how I could bring a variation to my almost daily intake of zucchini crudo salad (and it is your fault if it is nearly daily…)and I was thinking of adding ricotta and lemon zests. Now that I see your tempting pics, I might abandon the raw zucchini for tonight and prepare these yummy pasta…

  61. Kim says:

    Going on a cruise with 85 20-somethings sounds like an absolute blast! I imagine you’ve been recuperating all week:-)
    So glad that you made this recipe. I’ve been lusting after it in Mario’s book thinking about how it looks both indulgent and fresh at the same time. It looks fabulous Joanne!

  62. Shutter happy people are always taking photos of food on cruises. What happened!Good thing you had some fantastic ideas once you arrived home.

  63. Dana says:

    Nice to know that cruise food lives up to its reputation. Also nice to know that the future doctors of America like to have fun. Nothing worse than a stuffy doctor. (My dad is a doctor and he is fun.) I gave my copy of that book away and now I’m bummed…

  64. Kristen says:

    Ah, real ricotta. I had some a few years back from a little Italian grocery store in Seattle. I have missed it ever since.

  65. Megan says:

    Great post! I remember being on a cruise with a similar experience (sans the MD/PhDs). I could never get used to all the rocking. Your pasta looks delicious. And, I will be hunting for real ricotta now. Yum!

  66. Wow… I am sure this dish made you forget all about the subpar cruise food. Looks fantastic!!

  67. grace says:

    does mr symon know of your fling with mario? i’ll bet he’s not happy about it… 🙂

  68. Mary says:

    Your pasta looks delicious. It sounds like you are your classmates had an opportunity to relax. Well deserved I’m sure, Joanne. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary

  69. Deborah says:

    I have SO much squash, this looks amazing!

  70. Nom! Nom! Nom! This looks incredible and… if I haven’t said it already… I love the inclusion of mint in pasta dishes! All around a perfect meal!

  71. Carolyn Jung says:

    I made this, too, and absolutely loved it. It’s amazing how a few ingredients can come together like this to create such simple, yet satisfying flavors.

  72. OohLookBel says:

    Hehe, you’re so funny! And I could totally go this dish – ricotta, zucchini and penne rock!

  73. the perfect summery pasta dish! 😀

  74. Kerstin says:

    I just made something similar with summer squash! This version looks fabulous too – yum!

  75. A delicious dish to remind you of how pleasant simple ingredients are in pasta! Impressed with your bike-riding abilities!

  76. Debinhawaii says:

    Sounds like quite the fun time. 😉 This pasta looks so fresh and delicious–great pictures!

  77. Jessie says:

    What an awesome retreat, Joanne! Oh man, do you think you can sneak me into your retreat next year? The one to Aruba? 😉 While it sounds like you had a great time, I imagine the food was more than lacking. I can just see you chomping at the bit to get back into the kitchen. And what a delicious dish you’ve made! The perfect remedy to a hangover, I think.

  78. Marisa says:

    The cruise sounds like so much fun! Would love to have been a fly on the wall with all those crazy medical students. 🙂

    And man that ricotta looks super creamy & yum.

  79. Another amazing pasta from Batali. Glad you liked it as much as we did.

  80. Chris says:

    The Carnival ships I have been on had the stationary bikes facing out the front of the boat and I would get into a zone, pretending I was pedaling the boat during my workout.

    I love reading your posts, you always crack me up with your quips like “Because if the room is going to spin whether you’re sober or not, you might as well not be.”

  81. Claudia says:

    Sounds fun. The only conference I have coming up is for Operation Christmas Child, so probably won’t get too wild. But, who knows?

    This sounds so delicious, I love MARIO!

  82. nettlenomad says:

    Sometimes I miss the days of staff retreats..Greenpeace USA knew how to throw a good one, and amazingly, the food was always a highlight!
    I grew up in a neighborhood full of Italian groceries (and Polish ones too – kielbasa hanging in windows was a staple image of my childhood) and I only wish I could find the ricotta I remember here in the South..

  83. pajamachef says:

    hilarious! i love this pasta- i make one very similar, except w/ a cream sauce instead of ricotta. will have to try this 🙂

  84. Hannah says:

    Mmm, that pasta looks gorgeous, delicious, and like just the right amount of messy! I’m already scheming up a cashew ricotta to make and try in this dish… I can practically taste it now. 🙂

  85. Those kinds of trips are great in so many ways. Invigorating, refreshing, and full of bonding. Oh, and the ricotta in this is great. Such good flavor!

  86. Happy to hear you had such a fun time on your cruise. 🙂 It took me some time to get used to the ground not rocking back and forth too once we came home! This pasta looks delicious of course.

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