This season I planted four zucchini (courgette) seedlings in mamma’s garden. I’d put them all in one garden bed and my brother-in-law, who also plants vegetables in mamma’s large garden suggested that I might like to move a few plants as zucchinis take up so much room when they mature. As I had never planted them before, I took his advice and moved two to an adjacent bed. Lucky I did as they have grown simply enormous in a short period of time and are threatening to take over the adjacent eggplants and chilli plants. Imagine if I hadn’t moved them! I visit mamma once or twice a week and I swear that the zucchini plants double in size between visits. I always come home with several (though not generally the ones with the flowers still attached – the photo below was taken at the Rialto market in Venice) so we have been eating them most days.
My favourite way of eating zucchini, especially when they are small and flavoursome is sliced finely, salted for about five minutes, then patted dry. The salt softens them and allows excess water to leech out. When prepared this way, the zucchini strips melt in your mouth. They are lovely with some good quality olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. I love them in salads with toasted seeds such as sesame seeds or pepitas and fresh herbs. They are also great with pasta. This recipe for linguine requires no cooking (apart from boiling the pasta). You don’t even have to start preparing the ingredients until you put the pasta in boiling water. The linguine are dressed with the softened zucchini ribbons, an emulsion of fresh mint leaves and extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest and shaved parmigiano cheese. The dish should be just warm (not hot) when eaten. It is a real ten minute meal – absolutely delicious and refreshing on a hot summer evening. I have been enjoying this meal with some chilled DOCG Prosecco.
Linguine with zucchini ribbons, lemon and mint
175g linguine (you could also use spaghetti)
2 small zucchini (125g approximately)
20g fresh mint leaves (about half a bunch)
zest of half a lemon
extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
Cook the pasta in boiling water according to the directions on the packet. In the meantime, prepare the zucchini by topping and tailing them and slicing them longways on a mandolin. Cut the slices into ribbons. Place the ribbons in a bowl, with half a teaspoon of salt, massaging it in with your fingers. Set aside for about 5 minutes and then pat dry carefully with a paper towel as they will be quite wet and soft.
Place washed and dried mint leaves into a small food processor with a good glug of olive oil and process until you have a paste that is like pesto in consistency (not too runny).
When the pasta is cooked, drain and place in a bowl with most of the zucchini ribbons. Gently mix with your finger tips. Add a teaspoon of the minty dressing and stir it through the pasta. If the pasta is too warm at this stage, the mint will lose some of its flavour – so make sure you put it in last. Pile onto individual plates, top with remaining zucchini ribbons, minty dressing and drizzle on some extra olive oil if it looks too dry. Scatter the lemon zest, shaved parmigiano on the pasta, add cracked pepper and sea salt to taste and serve.