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Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Fusilli with Zucchini Sauce

I’m not sure why, exactly, but we got zucchini in the CSA box this week.  Since the farmers seem to be looking forward to summer, I thought I’d preview it too.  This deliciously sweet, summery sauce was just the thing.  Next time, though, I’d double the amount of zucchini the recipe called for, and increase the bechamel base accordingly.

Recipe

Source: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1 lb. zucchini (I’d double it, though)
1/3 c. milk (I ended up using more like 1/2 c. and if you double the zucchini you’ll need to double the milk)
1 tsp. flour (if you double the milk, double the flour)
1 egg yolk (if you double the milk, you might want to use two egg yolks)
3 tbs. butter (double if you double the milk)
2/3 c. chopped parsley or basil (I used parsley and it was delicious)
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. freshly grated romano cheese
salt (I used about 1/2 tsp. + 3-4 tbs. for the pasta water)
1 lb. pasta (fusilli is what the recipe recommends, it was good, but I think this would be fabulous on fresh fettucine, too)
vegetable oil (I like to grapeseed because it has many of the healthy properties of olive oil but is flavorless and can stand up to high temperatures)

Clean the zucchini thoroughly, cut off the ends and cut the zucchinis in half the short way (so you end up w/pieces about 3 inches long).  Julienne the zucchini (cut it into little strips about 1/8 in. x 1/8 in. x 3 in. ).  Put 1/2 in. of oil in a large frying pan and heat over high heat.  Pat the zucchini as dry as you can with paper towels then fry the strips.  Don’t put too many in the frying pan at once or you’ll cool the oil down too much and have a greasy, soggy mess.  I have a 12 in. frying pan.  I did 1 lb. of zucchini in 3 batches and that seemed to work pretty well.  When the zucchini starts to turn a pale gold color, lift it out of the oil and spread it out on some paper towel to drain.  You can do the zucchini a couple of hours ahead if you want to.

Whisk together the flour and milk, making sure to break up any lumps of flour as best you can.  Beat the egg yolk with a fork.  If you’re using boxed pasta, put it on to cook in well salted water (if you’re using fresh, it cooks so fast you’ll want to get the sauce going first – I’d put the pasta in about the same time you put the zucchini in to the pan with the milk mixture).  About 5 minutes before the pasta is going to be done, melt 2 tbs. of the butter in a large frying pan on medium heat.  Once it has melted and the foam starts to subside stir in the milk mixture a little at a time.  It should end up quite thick and creamy.  Add a generous pinch (I used more like 1/2 tsp.) Put the fried zucchini strips in and stir to coat with the milk mixture.  If the milk mixture has cooked down so much that it doesn’t thoroughly combine with the zucchini, add a little more milk.  Take the pan off the heat and add the rest of the butter.  Once it has started to incorporate add the egg yolk and stir vigorously.  When you add the egg yolk, try to pour it on the zucchini and avoid pouring it directly onto the pan surface.  This will help decrease the chance that it will curdle.

Drain the pasta and toss it with the zucchini mixture.  Mix in the parsley and cheese.  Enjoy.

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It’s snowy and cold outside and I’m getting over a couple of days not feeling so good.  It’s a perfect day for easy comfort food and pasta is my favorite.  I always have at least a couple of kinds of homemade sauce in the freezer, but tonight I’m in the mood for something quasi-fresh.  This super-easy tomato sauce is quick, tasty and I always have the ingredients on hand.  I originally found the recipe in Naples at Table by Arthur Schwarz.  Here’s how I make it:

Recipe

3 large cloves garlic
1/4 c. olive oil
1 large can tomatoes (I like to use strained for a smooth sauce, but if you prefer your sauce chunkier use chopped or whole)
2-3 tbs. coarsely chopped fresh basil or parsley or 1-2 tsp. dried basil (don’t use dried parsley – it has no flavor)
salt and crushed red pepper to taste
1 1/2 lb. spaghetti or other long pasta
freshly grated Parmesan to taste

Start plenty of water heating to cook the pasta (I use an 8 qt. stock pot to cook 1 lb. of pasta).  Use the flat of a knife to lightly crush the garlic.  Remove the peel and place cloves in a large skillet with the olive oil.  Heat over medium-low.  Turn the garlic cloves occasionally.  When the start to color remove them.  Add the tomatoes and turn the heat up to somewhere between medium and medium-high.  If you are using whole tomatoes crush them some with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.  Add some salt (start with about 1/2 tsp.) and crushed red pepper.  If you’re using dried basil add it now, too.  Let the tomatoes simmer uncovered while you finish cooking the pasta.  You’ll need to stir the tomatoes now and then to prevent burning.  Also, be aware that they may splatter.  I like to use a mesh splatter screen to help reduce clean up problems.  Don’t cover them with a solid lid, though, or they won’t concentrate enough.  Once the sauce has started thickening taste it and add additional seasonings as you wish.  Add fresh basil in the last minute or so of cooking.  When the pasta water is hot add plenty of salt (I usually use about 3 tbs. if I’m cooking in an 8 qt. pot).  Don’t skimp on the salt because this is the only way you get seasoning in the pasta itself.  If you have a big enough skillet to toss the sauce and pasta together in the skillet, then remove the pasta 1-2 minutes before it is done, drain it and add it to the sauce in the skillet.  If your skillet isn’t big enough, cook the pasta until it is just done, then add the sauce to the pasta in the serving bowl.  Never, never run your pasta under cold water after straining it.  You won’t have any trouble with it sticking together if you add the sauce promptly.  If you think the sauce isn’t quite ready when the pasta is done, add a little olive oil or butter to your pasta to help prevent sticking while you finish up the sauce.  If you want to, you can garnish the pasta with a little more chopped fresh herbs.  Allow diners to add their own freshly grated Parmesan to taste (I like to just put a block of Parmesan and a grater on the table and let everyone grate their own).

Notes

Total time: 3o minutes
Active time: 15 minutes
Special equipment: mesh splatter-screen (optional)
Shopping/ingredient tips:

  • Use good quality Italian boxed pasta (DeCecco is fine and widely available although I like Del Verde and some of the smaller brands a little better), preferably a long, round shape (spaghetti, spaghettini or buccatini).
  • Use a good brand of tomatoes.  I like the Parmalat ones that come in the box or the San Marzano ones that have the old-fashioned white labels.
  • There is no need to use expensive olive oil here.  The cooking will break down a lot of the flavor elements anyway.  Do use extra virgin, but a regular grocery store variety will be fine.

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