500g pasta, ideally spaghetti
1kg courgettes, ideally small young ones
Veg. Oil for frying
150g mix of grated parmesan and pecorino romano
100g butter cut into small cubes
few basil leaves
salt and pepper
slice courgettes finely into rounds - I used a mandolin. They need to be thin enough to cook effectively in the fat
Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan and, in batches, fry the courgettes rounds until they are a deep golden brown and rumpled. You need a pretty high heat for this as they have a lot of water in them, but keep an eye on them and stir them around to ensure even cooking as they can quickly burn
Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate, fry the next batch until they are all done. This can e done ahead of time.
Cook the pasta until al-dente. Keep back 2tbsps of the cooking water.
add the butter to the drained pasta and stir to melt and coat. Add the chees and reserved water and repeat this stirring to melt. Stir in the courgettes and mix through thoroughly but gently to ensure even distribution. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix in a few torn basil leaves. Serve straight away
This is another recipe from Diane Seed's estimable One hundred top pasta sauces which I have referred to before. This used to be a favourite of the Late Wife and I , and now the Eldest has developed a love for it too, which is nice. In her book Diane talks about the origins of the sauce in a Trattoria called Maria Grazia in Marina di Cantone near Sorrento. According to the web it is still there, and is on my to-visit list because this recipe, which is based on Courgettes, is sublime. It should properly be made with Spaghetti, but I only had short pasta but made it anyway because we don't use that as an excuse.
Once again, courgettes demonstrate that they are not necessarily bland watery vegetables to be looked over but can pack flavour if treated well. And here the golden caramelisation intensifies a sweet flavour which then contrasts well against the cheese. I suppose you could be critical on the texture front, as there is nothing with any crunch or bite but that is a small thing. You could remedy it with some toasted pine nuts or crispy onions of you wanted to.
Deep frying courgettes seems a bit of a faff, and do be honest it is. It needs to be done in batches and takes a while but it is worth it. The frying removes all the water which is what intensifies the flavour. And you need to keep an eye on them, because once the water is gone, they start to brown very quickly in hot oil - and you need to catch them somewhere between deep golden, brown and oh-dear they are burnt. You don't want the bitterness of burnt ones.
This would be a great recipe for a meet free Monday in Summer when courgettes are fresh and young and cheap. Which is when we had it. Incidentally, I have halved the quantity of courgettes that the original recipe states, and it is fine. If you want to try with double this quantity, then please feel free and let me know how it goes.