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Penne with Cime di Zucca and Datterini Tomatoes

Perfect for using up everything from the allotment this simple summery Italian dish from Theo Randall uses the often discarded courgette plant for an unexpected flavour.

From the book

Theo Randall


Italian food is frugal, and this recipe proves it. Cime di zucca is basically the courgette or squash plant. It can be large and may look unappealing, but cooked it has the most wonderful flavour. You need to cut off all the tough outer leaves and trim off any part you don’t like the look of. Combined with a rich tomato sauce, this becomes a very tasty dish and a perfect way to use up something you would not normally cook.

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1 head and stem of a courgette (zucchini) or squash plant, trimmed of tough outer leaves
9 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp chopped oregano
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
200g (7 oz) datterini tomatoes, quartered
600ml (20fl oz) tomato passata (strained tomatoes)
500g (1lb 2oz) dried penne rigate
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmesan, to serve


Wash the head of the courgette plant really well in cold water. Cut into 8 pieces and place in a large pan of boiling water with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook over a medium heat for 25 minutes, then test by sliding a sharp knife through the centre of a piece of courgette plant; if the knife goes through without any resistance, it is cooked. Drain into a colander and leave to cool. When cool, chop into a rough pulp.

Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil to a hot, very large frying pan, then add half the garlic and the chopped oregano and chilli. Cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, then add the passata and cook for 10 minutes. Pour the sauce into a bowl and leave to one side.

Wash the frying pan and place it back over the heat with another 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the remaining garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the chopped cooled courgette plant and cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, until the moisture from the courgette plant has evaporated and it is starting to slightly colour. Season with salt and black pepper, add the tomato sauce and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the penne in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes less than the packet suggests. Take the pasta out of the water with a slotted spoon and add it directly to the courgette plant and tomato sauce in the frying pan, keeping the pasta water on the stove. Add a ladleful of the pasta water and start stirring or tossing the pasta and the sauce. Cook and toss for 3 minutes, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Check the seasoning and serve immediately with a sprinkling of parmesan and black pepper on top.


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