Left to flourish in the garden, the long and gnarly cylinders of the zucchini plant curl, stretch and develop spikes. Delicate flowers caught beneath the majestic leaves are left to wither. They grow rapidly in the height of summer and quickly take over empty space. It's also a generous and plentiful plant that loves to give and it's in that same spirit that I love to cook with zucchini. For as long as they grow, most meals I make will have zucchini from the garden; in salads, fried and put in tortillas, baked with sausages, the list goes on. Eventually, I'll preserve them to lighten the darker months ahead.
This dish though, is a little special because it respects the mild and sweet flavour of fresh zucchini, it doesn't overcook them or smother them with other flavours. After little cooking time, what you're left with is a delicate and creamy sauce that tastes, well, like delicious zucchini (with a lil' something)! Be generous with the sauce and allow it to smother it's creamy goodness over the pasta and subtly take over - basically let it do what it does best.
Now to discuss the pasta element of the dish. The earthy flavour of the buckwheat pasta becomes a little milder when paired with this fresh and creamy zucchini sauce. It also has a coarse texture compared with normal pasta but I like it, particularly because it contrasts the smooth sauce. That said, the flavour of buckwheat isn't for everyone, if that's you, then buy good quality egg pasta like pappardelle or paccheri - they will work very well. I use pappardelle all'uvo (brand is called Alfieri) from Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Rd in Brunswick, they are delicious and silky smooth, it's also the same place I buy the chilli pieces in oil.
This dish can take one hour if you are making the buckwheat pasta or about 15 minutes (perfect for a weekday) if you are just making the zucchini sauce.
Serves 4 as an entrée
Fresh Buckwheat Pasta (or dry egg pasta, enough to serve 4)
2 large zucchini (about 750g)
1 garlic clove
extra virgin olive oil
10 basil leaves
2 tbsp mascarpone
3 tbsp grated pecorino, extra for serving
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
chilli pieces preserved in oil (fresh chilli and EVOO will work)
If you are using the fresh buckwheat pasta, make that first. Then, trim the zucchini, cut them into quarters lengthways and chop into rough medium pieces. Peel the garlic and chop in half.
Heat 4 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan, fry the garlic until golden, remove and set aside. Add the zucchini pieces and a pinch of salt, then fry gently until golden, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 a glass of water and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until the zucchini are soft. Transfer them to a blender, adding the cooked garlic and basil leaves; blend until smooth.
In a small pan, gently fry the breadcrumbs in 3 tbsp of EVOO until golden and toasted; you need to stir them to avoid burning. Set aside.
While your pasta is cooking in a big pot of salted boiling water, return the zucchini sauce to the pan and stir through the mascarpone and pecorino. Taste for salt and adjust if need be. After the required cooking time, transfer the pasta directly into the pan with the warm sauce and gently mix so it is nicely smothered.
Divide the pasta between bowls and top with a little more pecorino, breadcrumbs, preserved chilli and a good splash of the chilli oil.