Vegetables and pasta were meant for each other. And no vegetable says summer like zucchini. Ergo, there’s no more iconic summer pasta than tagliatelle with zucchini!
Start by sauteing some sliced baby zucchine in olive oil with a chopped up shallot over moderate heat, seasoning with salt and pepper as it cooked. When all was soft (as for onions, adding a bit of water will help the process along and prevent burning) I added some cream and grated pecorino cheese, allowed it to reduce a bit. In goes tagliatelle (egg pasta ‘ribbons’) that had been boiling for 3-4 minutes, tossed it around a bit to mix pasta and sauce, and served it up. Typical of the kind of quick and simple dish you can throw together in about 15 minutes. Fast food my way, as Jacques Pepin would say.
As always, quality produce is key to success. You need small, sweet zucchine. My favorite kind back in the ‘old country’ were the lightly spottled and ribbed variety called zucchine romane. They came with their flowers still attached, so you got not only the vegetable but the wonderful flowers for stuffing or salads. They were not as small as baby zucchine but not nearly as large as the typical zucchine you will find here. The problem is, once zucchine get too big, they lose their delicate flavor and become rather fibrous. Your best bet, then, is either to buy baby zucchine or to look for the smallest ‘regular’ zucchine you can find in a farmers market. (Note to US readers: Oddly enough, Whole Foods–at least the one around our house–is not a good source for zucchine. Theirs are far too large–they look like something out of a science fiction movie–and, for some odd reason, very dark. You could mistake them for cucumbers.)
Zucchine are a staple summer vegetable in Italy. We actually grew zucchine in our vegetable garden in Rome. It’s amazing how many zucchine a single plant will produce–you get fresh sprouts literally daily! The first year I planted zucchine, not knowing their prodigious productive capacity, I planted four of them. Well, I should have been selling them at the roadside because we had bushels and bushels of them! My colleagues at work were happy, though. And let me tell you, you really have never had zucchine until you’ve grown your own. The taste is out of this world.
Besides tagliatelle with zucchini, there are many other pasta and zucchini dishes out there. One of my other favorites is spaghetti alle zucchine, which is just sliced zucchine fried until lightly brown in the same flavored oil you use to make aglio e olio. Zucchini are also commonly used to make a vegetarian version of carbonara with eggs and pecorino cheese.