The Fairy Godmother of old recipes. Pasta with zucchini and saffron

There was a time, before meeting Tommaso, when I would try new recipes with dedication and then I would come here on the blog to tell you everything about them. They look like past geological eras, yet I’m speaking of a decade ago. There were fewer filters, less expectations. I used to cook, snap a hurried photo, eat with pleasure and pour all the exciting discoveries and new flavours on these pages. The historical memory of those years is Claudia, a patient sister, an impartial and curious taster.

There are dishes that entered the family routine at that time and that, over the years, turned into classics, so that they now represent a reassuring constant even for Tommaso. Others, instead, remained hidden in the folds of old pages, tried once and then forgotten for the arrival of marvellous new recipes and ingredients. It’s a shame, though, as sometimes they are simple recipes, born from the desire to eat something good with the few available ingredients. Just the kind of recipes that you would gladly prepare on a Wednesday night after work, exactly what I like to share here on the blog: the ordinary routine of cooking and eating well.

Those recipes have been penalised by callow photos and hastily written texts, so great was the urgency to share them.

In these days, when I feel constantly poised in between past and future, searching for those primitive emotions that the kitchen has always given me – emotions made of scents, tastes, memories – I decided to dig into the blog archive to see which treasures I could find. I found the scent of the first fresh garlic I came upon at the market, the taste of a tomato sauce made with freshly bought aromatic herbs, the heady smell of a tonka bean grated into a coffee custard.

So I decided to become the Fairy Godmother of old recipes, recipes that just needed a new dress and a booster of confidence.

And I also made Tommaso happy, as he won’t tell me anymore, with a pout, but you’ve never cooked this for me…

Let’s start with pasta with zucchini and saffron, a 10 old recipe, made shortly after buying my first pot of mint for the garden. I cooked this pasta for the whole family on Sunday, talking to a younger me through the pages of this blog, which once again proved to be a time machine and the memory of a lifetime.

From an old post originally published just in Italian in April 2009

One of my favourite therapies when I’m down, or one of my favourite activities when I’m happy and elated, is to go to a bookstore and stay there for hours, browsing books, waiting for inspiration.

My favourite sections are, obviously, that of cookbooks and that of books in English. When I can find the kitchen section in English, well, that’s pure joy. I buy many cookbooks and I love nothing more than line them up on my chest of drawers in a neat row. I browse them, admire them smugly, sometimes I even try a recipe or two (mind this was ten years ago! Now I am exactly the same, though the cookbooks expanded to two bookshelves!).

I am ashamed to say this, but there are books that I almost know by heart now, from which I have never tried a single recipe… for the moment, at least.

In short, I don’t remember when it was – if it was an up or a down moment – but I bought Delphine de Montalier’s Verdure Golose. It is a good recipe book, packed with useful tips on cooking vegetables and pairings, for example: what aromatic herb can I use with carrots? how is it better to cook asparagus? and if I have any leftover potatoes, what can I do with them? the celeriac, this stranger…

Pasta with zucchini and saffron

On Sunday I was leafing through this book to find a new recipe for pasta with zucchini: mine is good and quick, but it is always the same. So here I found an interesting recipe that gave me the chance me to use even the little cream left after making some cupcakes, a pasta with a zucchini and saffron cream.

While the pasta is cooking undisturbed, prepare the zucchini dressing: cook the zucchini already cut into cubes, to save time, in a small saucepan with broth or hot water. Drain the zucchini and add the saffron and a handful of fresh mint leaves, then blend everything with a splash of cream until you get a delicate purée.

You can use milk instead of cream is you prefer a lighter sauce. If you can’t find fresh mint, be very careful with dried mint, otherwise it might be overpowering.

Drain the pasta al dente, two or three minutes ahead of time, and sauté in a pan with the zucchini sauce, a generous grating of Parmigiano Reggiano and a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water to bind all the flavours. I missed this simplicity and the delicate scent of mint.

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Pasta with zucchini and saffron

While the pasta is cooking, blend the soft zucchini with saffron and a splash of cream. Then toss the pasta with the zucchini puree and a generous handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. CoursePasta CuisineItalian Keywordpasta, zucchini, courgettes, saffron Prep Time10 minutes Cook Time15 minutes Total Time25 days Servings people

Ingredients

  • 360  g  (12 2/3 oz) of short pasta, as penne or mezze maniche
  • 4 medium zucchini
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2  cups of vegetable stock, or hot water
  • 100  ml  (3 1/3 fl oz) of fresh cream
  • 2  spoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 50  g  (1 3/4 oz) of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • A few leaves of fresh mint
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Soak the saffron in two tablespoons of hot water.
  • Rinse and dice the zucchini, then cook them in a saucepan with the vegetable stock or some hot water, until they are so soft that they can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
  • Drain the zucchini, then blend them with saffron, fresh cream and a few mint leaves until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the zucchini sauce into a pan and add two tablespoons of olive oil, cook for 2-3 minutes until thicker.
  • Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain the pasta al dente, keeping a ladle of cooking water aside. Pour the pasta into the pan, add the pasta cooking water and the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • Toss the pasta for a few minutes on low flame, add a few fresh mint leaves and serve immediately.

Notes

For a better result of the recipe, consider using a scale.

More recipes with zucchini

  • Round courgettes stuffed with tuna. These round courgettes stuffed with tuna are a flavourful Tuscany dish, this is how grandma makes them in Summer. Be sure to make enough, you’ll love them!
  • Zucchini with fresh garlic and oregano. How can I still remember the excitement of this dish after so many years? My first fresh garlic, a bunch of aromatic herbs, a side dish just for me.
  • A Tuscan sweet zucchini cake. This zucchini cake is not too sweet, has an unusual green taste for a cake and keeps its moisture thanks to the thinly sliced zucchini that enrich a simple batter made of flour, milk, egg, sugar and olive oil. Do not forget a few leaves of fresh basil to make this cake even more aromatic. 

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