It was my first night in Rome on my first trip to Italy that I realized how deeply personal food could be. Of course before going there I knew that recipes changed from cook to cook, but I never experienced how so many people could take such familiar flavors from traditional dishes and make them wholly their own. The pesto I tasted in Rome was different from the one in Cinque Terre because Italian cuisine is deeply devoted to locality and seasonlity.
This version of pasta con zucchine fritte builds on the traditional dish of thinly sliced zucchini fried in olive oil and adds what’s in season and local to me in Philadelphia – like fresh fava beans, basil, and buffalo mozzeralla.
It may look like a simple pesto pasta, but it’s deceiving complex. The fried zucchini is first marinaded in herbs and vinegar before being tossed with puréed basil, capers, and lemon zest that forms a herbaceous sauce for the pasta, fava beans, and mozzarella. Green, fresh, and full of vegetables, its great warm and even better as cold leftovers.
Serve with sturdy Italian white like a Pigato or glass of prosecco.
Preparing fava beans can be time consuming and not idea for a quick weeknight meal. Feel free to substitute any fresh bean like edamame, english peas or even snap peas.
It is important to fry the zucchini in small batches and use a wide frying pan with plenty of oil. If you overcrowd the pan, the zucchini won’t fry but instead will end up absorbing the oil and become greasy.
Get The Goods & Gear
Spaghetti Con Zucchine Fritte
- Fried and marinated zucchini – recipe below
- 175 g (1 cup) shelled fava beans
- 60 g (2 cups) fresh basil leaves – coarsely torn
- 8 g (1/4 cup) fresh parsley leaves
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
- 1 lb spaghetti
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 ½ tablespoons capers
- 8 oz buffalo mozzarella – torn into chunks
- Sea salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
Prepare the Fava Beans: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water comes to a boil, snap the stem off each pod and pull on it to “unzip” the pod so you can remove the beans.
Blanch the beans in a pot of salted, boiling water for 60 seconds and then plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Use your thumbnail to break open the inner, waxy coating and squeeze to pop out the bean.
Prepare the Pasta: In a food processor, combine half the basil, all of the parsley, and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and process until smooth.
In boiling water, cook pasta until al dente; drain and rinse under cold water. Return pasta to pot. Pour zucchini slices and the tablespoons of the vinegar marinade over pasta. Add fava beans, basil sauce, lemon zest, capers and mozzarella.
Stir together gently, then taste and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Before serving, stir in remaining basil.
Fried and Marinated Zucchini
- 1 cup neutral oil (like sunflower oil)
- 3 medium zucchini – cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
- 160 ml (2/3 cup) white wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves – thinly sliced
- 10 g (1/4 cup) combination of fresh mint and basil – thinly sliced
- Sea salt
Combine the garlic, mint, and vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside. Line a wire rack with paper towels.
In a medium frying pan, heat 2-inches of neutral oil to 350°F. Fry the zucchini in small batches until golden brown, and transfer to the rack to drain. Season with salt.
Add the zucchini to the vinegar marinade and toss to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.