Flavors of the Amalfi Coast

Romanesco Zucchini

Romanesco Zucchini

Charles and I just returned from 3 weeks on the Amalfi Coast.  Now  I find myself daydreaming about the views of the Mediterranean, the clear bright sunshine, the sunsets over Positano, the wonderful people, and of course, the amazingly simple fresh food, so you can imagine how happy I was to spot a small pile of Romanesco zucchini at the Greenmarket yesterday.  I was so excited, the saleswoman looked at me strangely, but I picked out some nice small ones and brought them home for dinner.  Pale green with deep ridges, these zucchini are not watery like the smooth, dark green zucchini that are typical here and they have a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.  They were in season in Italy, and we ate them in so many ways: fried and marinated with vinegar and mint, tossed with linguine and clams,  in a delicious ciambotta with potatoes and onion, and my favorite way, browned and tossed with pasta, basil and cheese.  You can make this pasta with regular zucchini, but the flavor and texture will be better with the Romanesco.  If you can’t find it, you can use regular zucchini but place the slices on paper towels to dry for an hour or so before using, or sprinkle the slices with salt and let them drain like eggplant.   Better yet, order a package of seeds on line and grow them yourself.  That way you will have lots of zucchini flowers, too, to stuff, or use in risotto, etc.

I like to use pecorino Romano with this pasta, but Parmigiano-Reggiano is good, too.

LINGUINE WITH ZUCCHINI AND BASIL

Serves 2 – 4

1-1/4 pounds small zucchini, preferably Romanesco zucchini

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt

8 ounces linguine

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano

Scrub the zucchini with a vegetable brush.  Trim off the ends and cut them into thin crosswise slices.  Pat the slices dry with paper towels.

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add only enough zucchini slices as will fit comfortably in a single layer.  Fry the

slices until nicely browned on both sides.  Transfer them to a large serving bowl without draining off too much of the oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Fry the remaining zucchini in the same way sprinkling each batch with salt.  Sprinkle with the basil.

Bring a large pot of water to boiling.  Add the linguine and salt to taste.  Stir well and cook until al dente, firm yet tender to the bite.  Drain the pasta reserving a little of the cooking water.

Add the pasta to the bowl with the zucchini.  Add the cheese and toss well.  Add a spoonful of the pasta cooking water if the pasta seems dry.  Serve hot.

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    • Michele Scicolone