We all know what it’s like when our pockets are feeling a little tight, and yet that doesn’t keep the shopping list from getting longer. While living in Italy, I realized quickly that I would have to start budgeting my food money very carefully. Luckily, I also had a huge, fresh food market only two blocks away with a plethora of beautiful fruits, vegetables and grains at my disposal. While there, I discovered how miraculous a staple zucchini is. Fresh zucchini might be one of the most versatile and delicious fruits (yes it’s a fruit)- you can even eat the flower! This wonderful squash is best to buy in the summer, when it is in season, but fortunately, here in the US there are ways of enjoying it all year round. Zucchini also happens to be relatively cheap, and will last a long time if refrigerated. Therefore, I never leave the market without at least two large zucchini and a package of baby zucchini.
Zucchini is a great choice not only because of its affordability, but because it is also very good for you. Zucchini has very little calories, is a good source of fiber, and contains vitamins like potassium, vitamin A, manganese, and folate.
One of my favorite ways to prepare zucchini is with pasta. All you need to enjoy zucchini on a regular basis is a box of pasta, some cheese and a lemon. This dish is incredibly cheap to prepare, very healthy, and extremely delicious.
Alright, down to business. Zucchini pasta is very easy to make, and is a good practice dish for fledgling chefs. This recipe can also feed many people at once, and prepares quickly so it’s good for a crowd. This recipe will focus on portion sizes for between 3-4 people.
1/2 lb- 1lb of pasta (depending on the appetite of those consuming)
1 medium sized zucchini
1/2 lemon, juiced
pecorino romano cheese, grated (or parmigiano-reggiano)
1 tbsp. oregano
2 tbsp. olive oil (plus more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste (fresh ground and course is the best)
Put a large pot of water on to boil, adding a pinch of salt to speed up the boiling process, and a tsp. of olive to keep the pasta from sticking. While the water is boiling, rinse and slice the zucchini into medallions about 1/4 of an inch thick. While the water is boiling, add your favorite pasta. Personally, I would recommend thicker pastas like farafalle or penne, but virtually any kind would work (make sure not to overlook their cooking time).
After the pasta is on, place a large pan on the burner, coat the pan with the olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano and turn the burner on medium heat. When hot, place the zucchini medallions in, trying to give each piece as much room as possible. Make sure to turn the zucchini frequently, getting both sides a little crispy- this should take about five minutes. Turn the burner on low to keep the zucchini warm while the pasta finishes cooking.
At this point, you should check the pasta and give it a stir. Then, shred enough cheese for as many people are eating.
When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and portion onto plates. Add zucchini mixture to each dish. On each plate, squeeze over the lemon, drizzle a bit of olive oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and lastly, add some cheese. Remember to stir each dish well before eating in order to get the best flavor.
Eat well, and enjoy!