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That Time Of Year Again
Since my new home is to be in Italy, the land that apparently bequeathed to us zucchine (the Italian plural of the singular zucchina), I stand ready to increase my green squash repertoire. Plus I plan to cook more recipes with the blossoms – check out this earlier post on this overlooked bonus, as the more blossoms that you fry, steam or bake, the fewer green honkers you’ll have at the end of August.
How and why we turned our term zucchini for both singular and plural from the Italian feminine zucchina, not even the trusty crew at Wikipedia knows, except that we “borrowed” the word. Italian gardeners and farmers, however, don’t allow the squash to get so overblown as we do in the states. I have yet to see a bloated green specimen dumped at anyone’s front door or praying to be sold in a produce market here.
The addition of mint, basil and pine nuts makes this zucchini based sauce for pasta an exceptional dish for August. One of the things I learned from the Italy Insider (and also from several nonne in the adorable series created by Vicky Dennison – Pasta Grannies ) is to place some sauce at the base of the platter that you will use to dress the pasta. Then slide the drained pasta on top, start folding the pasta into the sauce and adding some additional sauce or even some pasta water, as needed. I think we have a tendency in the US to pile the sauce on top – and often too much – and then try to mix it downward.
Don’t peel the zucchine, as the green skin provides the flavor – another thing I learned from a Pasta Granny! Another flavor enhancer from this recipe I got from Giallo Zafferano (which now offers its recipes in English as well as Italian) is to cook the pasta in the same water as you used for blanching the zucchine.
An Italian standard with vegetables is the sformato, a custard base incorporated with a puree of a seasoned vegetable, frequently used with a leftover cooked vegetable like beets, carrots etc. This one featuring zucchini is from a post I wrote in August of 2018 and has made several hundred readers very happy. This grilled zucchini salad and a delicious Austrian cake are two other possibilities for what may be lurking on your doorstep.
- 500 g (a bit over a lb) egg-based tagliatelle, fresh is better
- 400 g (14oz)zucchini
- 30 g (1 oz) pine nuts
- 70 g 2 1/2oz)grated grana Padana cheese
- Mint leaves
- Basil leaves
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fine Sea Salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to boil.
- Wash the zucchini, cut off the ends and slice them into cubes.
- Take a fourth of them and set aside; the rest your will cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon and refresh in cold water.
- Save the water that you have used to boil the zucchini and leave it simmering over low heat.
- Saute the remaining fourth in some olive oil in fry pan over medium heat until golden.
- Put the boiled zuccini in a blender or food processor with the pine nuts and grated Grana Padano and 70ml (1/3cup) of EVOO, some salt and pepper.
- Blend these ingredients until you get a creamy sauce and then add a few (no more than 20) basil leaves and about half that number of mint leaves - then pulverize again.
- Cook the tagliatelle in the same water that you have cooked the zucchini in, which should have been salted.
- When cooked, drain the pasta and mix them in with the zucchini cream.
- Season to taste, garnish with the sautéed zucchini cubes and serve immediately, with a drizzle of olive oil to finish off.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.