Pasta with Courgettes
This is one of my favourite pastas, but I must start with a warning: it isn’t as easy on the eye as on the palate; this is a dish made for pleasure not a photo-op. In order for the courgettes to acquire the sweet, braised flavour they imbue the pasta with here, they are cooked to a squashy khaki.
I feel somewhat self-conscious using the French word, courgettes, here, but I would feel even more so were I to dub them (outside of Italy or North America) zucchini. Whatever they’re called, this is how I prepare them: before dicing them, I peel away strips of skin, which gives them a striped look. This habit is a maternal legacy that I don’t expect you to inherit, too. So peel or don’t peel, wholly or in stripes, as you see fit.
I like casarecce pasta, which for all that it means “homemade”, is produced by most good pasta manufacturers and indeed is so common that I find it at my local supermarket. Casarecce are small, loosely rolled tubes with a gap– where the roll doesn’t quite meet up along the side – which catches every bit of flavoursome sauce. The more colourfully named strozzapreti (“priest-stranglers”) work in much the same way. Please don’t be put off making this should either of these shapes elude you. My Italian friends blithely suggest, as an alternative, either penne or farfalle.
|salt for pasta water, (to taste)|
|2x 15ml tbsp||garlic oil|
|4||spring onions, finely diced|
|500g||courgettes (preferably organic), finely diced|
|60ml||dry white wine or vermouth|
|small bunch of fresh parsley chopped|
|3 x 15ml tbsp||grated parmasan, plus more for sprinkling (optional)|
|salt and pepper (to taste)|
|2 tsp (10g)||unsalted butter|
Put a pan of water on for the pasta, salting generously (or to taste) when it comes to the boil, then add the casarecce – cooking as per packet instructions, though tasting a couple of minutes before they’re meant to be ready – and get on with the sauce.
Put the garlic oil and chopped spring onions in a heavy-based pan (that comes with a lid) on medium heat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the diced courgettes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and again.
Add the wine or vermouth, letting it bubble up, followed by 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley, salt to taste, then lower the heat, cover with the lid and cook for a further 5 minutes, by which time the courgettes should be gorgeously tender.
Before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of starchy cooking water.
Tip the drained pasta back into its pan, add the braised courgettes, or add the pasta to the pan of courgettes, along with 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan and 4 tablespoons of pasta-cooking liquid. Combine thoroughly and taste to see if you wish to add more cheese or salt or pepper or, indeed, cooking liquid, then stir in the butter and most of the remaining parsley and divide between 2 warmed bowls, sprinkling with the rest of the parsley, and more Parmesan if wished, on serving.