During a summertime heat wave, preparing our meals must be quick. Zucchini, and other soft summer squash, are at their peak right now, so make this Italian combination of farfalle pasta with zucchini and fresh mint. One of my favorites, I serve it often during hot, humid days because it is light and cooling. Accented by the crunch of toasty pine nuts with their hint of smokiness, zucchini takes on a new sparkle with the lively flavor of fresh mint.
The proportions in this recipe are for almost equal amounts of pasta and zucchini once cooked. Use a mandoline for quickly slicing the zucchini. Versatility is key for most cooks, so substitute any mix of soft squash for green zucchini, or add pitted black olives instead of pine nuts. To increase protein, add strips of cooked chicken or shrimp. If you prefer no pasta, serve this sauce with tofu, tempeh, seitan, grains, or cooked fish. Really, anything you like with zucchini and fresh mint promises to be a hit! Serve the dish slightly warm for the fullest flavor, within 5 minutes of combining the sauce with the pasta or other ingredients.
4 first-course servings or 2 main course servings. Cooking time is 15 to 20 minutes.
Extra-virgin olive oil
8 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch (6-mm) thick rounds (3 pounds or 1.4 kg)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced, optional
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces or 70 g) pine nuts
Fresh mint leaves
Salt to taste
1 pound (454 g) farfalle pasta
Grated aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, Montasio, or Pecorino cheese
1. Zucchini Sauce: In a broad non-stick pan, warm the oil over medium heat, add the sliced squash and lightly salt. Carefully separate the slices, since they tend to stick together, while sauting them until they are light golden brown around the edges, about 6 to 8 minutes. During cooking, add a few drops of water as needed to prevent burning.
*The volume of raw sliced zucchini is large, so cook it in 2 or 3 batches if need be. They wilt during cooking and lose about half of their volume. Do this step ahead of time if more convenient for your schedule.
Combine all cooked batches and proceed using a heat-resistant spatula for stirring because it is gentle and preserves the shape without tearing the slices. Turn over the sauteed zucchini and add the sliced garlic. Cook until the zucchini and garlic are just soft but not mushy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt to taste. During the final few minutes, sprinkle in the pine nuts so they slowly turn golden during cooking. Add fresh mint leaves then slide the pan off the heat.
Serve Zucchini Sauce with pasta, grains,
tofu, seitan, tempeh, chicken, fish, or shrimp.
2. Boiling the Pasta: Meanwhile in a deep pot over high heat, bring lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add the farfalle, stirring occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking together. While the pasta is boiling, scoop out 1/2 cup (120 ml) cooking water and reserve. Boil the pasta until firm al dente because it continues cooking with the sauce.
3. Combining the Pasta with the Sauce: Slide the pan back over high heat and cook for a minute. (If adding chicken or shrimp, add it now.) Drain the pasta, leaving a little water clinging to it and immediately it to the sauce. Toss the ingredients. Add some pasta cooking water as needed to keep the pasta moist and to create a light, glossy sauce. Toss and plate, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint. It's so refreshing and will perk you up! Serve the grated cheese at tableside.
Or Serving the Sauce with Other Ingredients: If serving this sauce with tofu, tempeh, seitan, grains, or fish, simply cook those ingredients as you wish. Cut them into large pieces, or slices, or dice, then cook. Gently fold these into the zucchini sauce, or plate them and top with the sauce.