Sunday, January 25, 2015

Simple Supper: Zucchini and Leek Pasta

"No onion," scolded my friend Jessica.  She had just come from Italy and was showing me how to make a zucchini pasta sauce that she had there.  "Ok," I replied, "but how about a little garlic, then?"  "No garlic," Jessica said exasperatedly, "Just the zucchini."  Jessica's sauce was very simple.  Just grated zucchini, sauteed slowly in a lot of olive oil until it melted down into a thick sauce.  On pasta with grated parmesan, she was right.  It didn't need anything else.  It tasted fresh, like the essence of summer.  However, in the middle of winter with zucchini out of season and without much flavor, Jessica's sauce would need a bit more.  I couldn't quite bring myself to put an onion in it, but surely Jessica could have no objections to a lovely leek?  And really, some garlic couldn't be wrong.  Of course some basil to add a bit of zest. This is fresh and yet warm and comforting.  A glimpse of summer for the winter.

Serves 4
2 to 3 medium sized zucchini
1 leek
4 cloves of garlic
generous handful of basil
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
500 grams of your favorite pasta

First, put a big pan of water on the stove for the pasta.  Salt generously once the water is boiling and cook the pasta for the number of minutes indicated on the packet.  I like to use a penne or farfalle pasta which will take up plenty of the sauce.

Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables.  Rinse off the zucchini and grate them.  Slice the leek in half.  Rinse carefully to get any grit from between the leaves.  Slice into rounds.  Roughly chop the basil.  Peel the garlic and chop.

Heat a saute pan and add a generous amount of olive oil, about 3 to 4 tablespoons.  When the oil is hot, throw in the leek and a pinch of salt and stir for about a
minute on high heat until it starts to wilt.  Throw in the garlic and stir for another minute.  Then add the grated zucchini.  Add another pinch of salt and stir.  Add some more olive oil if you feel it is getting dry.  Turn the heat down to medium and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally.  When the zucchini starts to break down, the sauce is ready.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and throw in the basil and give it a final stir.

Drain the pasta when it is cooked, saving a cup of the water. Toss the hot pasta in the sauce and stir until it is coating all the pasta.  I like to do this with a pair of tongs.  Add a bit of the pasta water if it seems a bit dry, and you can even add a bit more olive oil.

Incorporate about two tablespoons of grated parmesan into the sauce and stir.  Serve the pasta hot with more parmesan on top.

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