Bernie B (my padre, a champion) picked some zucchini flowers from his garden and sent them my way. It was early morning, so I saw them open in full - when they are ready to be harvested.
I deliberated on recipes for a while. I wanted to match the summer vibe they radiate and embrace their subtle zucchini flavour. The little nonna on my shoulder slapped me with a salami and exclaimed that I couldn't go past a simple pasta. I conceded and decided on ricotta gnudi. It wasn't until after I purchased the warm tub of ricotta that I realised they must rest for 8 hours! Rookie mistake. On the up side, it was the easiest home made pasta I've ever made and even though my golden flowers had withered by the time the gnudi were ready to be cooked, the flavour was exactly what I was after. End result - smooth and light pasta pillows in a sweet summer sauce. Tip: keep the ends in water and refrigerate for freshness.
375g tub of good quality ricotta
50g parmesan cheese, grated
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Zest 1/2 small lemon
Fine semolina to coat
2 small zucchini, diced
1/2 clove of garlic
4 zucchini flowers, stamens removed and sliced horizontally
1 medium tomato diced
Chopped basil to garnish
Pinch of saffron (alternative, paprika)
1. Mix the ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg, lemon zest and add salt and pepper (you can mix in finely cut herbs like basil at this point). Taste to check the balance of flavours, one flavour should not be too overpowering.
2. Cover a shallow dish with semolina. Roll the gnudi into a walnut sized ball and coat well in the semolina. Place the gnudi on a separate tray lined with paper towels as you go. Refrigerate for 8 hours (no less!), do not cover as the semolina will absorb the moisture.
3. Get a large pot of salted water to the boil. The gnudi only take 2 minutes to cook, so in the meantime make your sauce.
4. Place a large frying pan over a low heat and coat with olive oil. Add the garlic and diced zucchini. Cook for two minutes and then add two tablespoons of boiling water from your pasta pot.
5. While that lightly cooks, boil your gnudi. Then, add the zucchini flowers to your sauce and four more tablespoons of the pasta water, you are after a light creamy consistency. Once the gnudi are ready, transfer them directly to the pan with a slotted spoon and lightly toss with the sauce. Add basil, saffron and salt to taste. Add the diced tomato and cook for a further minute, you can continue to add pasta water at any stage for a creamier consistency, just avoid a watery sauce. Grated parmesan would work nicely to finish but not required if you're after a subtle flavour. Serve immediately.