We may go on vacation tomorrow but we haven’t decided where yet. This is unprecedented. And strange. It sort of makes me feel like I’m 19 again and just found out that I have a couple of days off and that a friend has access to a car. Road trip!
In anticipation of potentially leaving the house for an extended period of time, which I haven’t done since January, I made pasta with the two rough-around-the-edges zucchini (pictured above) that were hanging out in the bottom of the fridge for dinner last night. They are a local variety and were grown by neighbors at the lake apartment.
We’re also thawing a massive hunk of pork ribs to barbecue for dinner tonight, far too much meat for two people. I write this only to add that I wish you could all come over for dinner to help. It would be so much fun. Maybe next time…
I also feel like sharing recipes lately so here are two recipes for making pasta topped with zucchini, one basic, one more indulgent. What are you cooking these days? Zucchini? Pasta? Zucchini pasta? Tacos? I love tacos.
Basic pasta with zucchini
This would probably be easier to show than write out. Maybe next time you come over for dinner I can show you. The recipe is super simple with only a handful of ingredients but I’m long-winded below as it seems helpful to write out the technique for those of you who don’t cook pasta as regularly as I do, which is to say most days.
- Olive oil
- Garlic clove
- Red pepper flakes
- Salt or colatura (anchovy fish sauce)
- Coarse salt for the pasta water
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
How to make it
- Cut the zucchini with the skins still on. I’ve liked little zucchini cubes as a shape lately. I removed the seeds from this variety of zucchini as Roberto’s mother told us to. But if they are tiny, soft seeds, you can leave them in too. I like being a nose to tail zucchini eater when I can. I have also not made this pasta with the classic American zucchini and would be interested in how it comes out if you give it a try. The zucchini around here tend to have a strong nutty flavor.
- Warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Crush the garlic with the flat side of a knife and remove the skin. Toss the whole crushed clove into the oil. Sprinkle on some red pepper flakes. Cook the garlic until it is “blond” on both sides or lightly tanned. You can remove the garlic at this point, but I leave it in as I love garlic. I just try to make sure it ends up on my plate and not Roberto’s as he does not love garlic as much as I do.
- Add the cubed zucchini to the pan over medium-high heat.
- I let the zucchini get a little tan and then I turn the heat down. I like to cook them good and long until they get mushy and turn yellow and start to caramelize. I will add some water as I go in order to keep them from burning and to let them cook longer.
- Season the zucchini with a few splashes of colatura. I love colatura (anchovy fish sauce) and use it all the time, but you can also just sprinkle on some salt instead.
- Cook your pasta al dente in a big pot of water with plenty of salt. For shapes, I tend to either use something long like linguini or something with large openings that the zucchini cubes can get stuck inside like tubular paccheri or rigatoni.
- Drain the pasta making sure to save some of the starchy pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with the zucchini and a tiny bit of the pasta water and toss. Turn the heat up. Add more pasta water if needed to keep the pasta moving around. Cook for about a minute or so until the water mostly cooks down.
- Plate and cover with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
More indulgent pasta with zucchini (basically a gricia pasta (add meat!) with zucchini)
I am adding this recipe here as it is actually super similar to the one above but it replaces the olive oil and garlic with guanciale (cured pig jowls, guancia means cheek in Italian), the red pepper with black pepper and I switch out the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese with Pecorino Romano and add the cheese before I plate it, not after. But the general concept is the same. Flavored fat in a pan, cubed zucchini, add pasta, toss, cheese, please.
- Guanciale or bacon
- Coarse salt for the pasta water
- Finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Black pepper
How to make it
- Cut the guanciale or bacon into cubes or chunky rectangles and cook over low heat in a large frying pan until it is slightly crunchy on the outside but still squishy on the inside. Be careful not to burn or overcook them. I sometimes add a tiny bit of olive oil to the pan to get them started but it’s probably not necessary.
- Remove the guanciale but leave the rendered fat in the pan.
- Cut the zucchini into cubes with the skin still on. Take the seeds out if they are big or leave them in if they are tiny and innocuous.
- Cook the zucchini in the rendered fat in the pan as described in step 4 of the recipe above. “I let the zucchini get a little tan and then I turn the heat down. I like to cook them good and long until they get mushy and turn yellow and start to caramelize. I will add some water as I go in order to keep them from burning and to let them cook longer.”
- Cook pasta according to step 6 above. “Cook your pasta al dente in a big pot of water with plenty of salt. For shapes, I tend to either use something long like linguini or something with large openings that the zucchini cubes can get stuck inside like tubular paccheri or rigatoni.”
- Add the pasta according to step 7 above but also return the guanciale cubes to the pan when you add the pasta. “Drain the pasta making sure to save some of the starchy pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with the zucchini and a tiny bit of the pasta water and toss. Turn the heat up. Add more pasta water if needed to keep the pasta moving around. Cook for about a minute or so until the water mostly cooks down.”
- Take the pasta off the heat and add several handfuls of finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Toss. Add a little more pasta water if needed. Put it back over low to medium heat briefly to get it good and creamy. Mix and toss. You can also replace the Pecorino Romano with Parmigiano Reggiano or use a combo of the two.
- Plate and season with black pepper. Top with grated cheese.
Eat well. Stay safe.