This dish of orecchiette with pancetta, zucchini and zucchini blossoms was inspired by a lunch my son and I ate on our way from Abruzzo to Rome. We'd knew we'd be driving right through the Alban Hills, and a series of towns known as "Castelli Romani," where one of my close friends, Clo, owned a home. Since her death two years ago, her son George and daughter Claire have now taken over running the place, called Casale Sonnino, which produces some of the best olive oil you'll ever taste. They also open their 18th century villa to paying guests and it's a great retreat for anyone who wants to be close to Rome, but away from the frenetic tourist masses.
How would you like to fling open the shutters in the morning and wake up to this view?
George treated my son and me to a wonderful lunch at a restaurant in the nearby town of Monte Porzio Catone. My son ordered this platter of penne with zucchini, zucchini blossoms and pancetta - loaded with cream and deliciousness.
I had been eating so much pasta at that point, I decided my waistline needed a break. I ordered the stuffed zucchini, a recipe very similar to one I posted on my blog last summer, only this dish used the long zucchini, while mine were the round variety.
As you can tell, zucchini recipes abound in restaurant menus right now all over Italy - and why not? They're so easy to grow and vegetable gardens here and in Italy are bursting forth with enough zucchini to feed a small country.
When my friend Dorothy asked me to do a cooking demonstration for a weekly group she hosts called "The Suppers Program" - a group that helps people learn about good nutrition to combat mental and health issues of any sort - from diabetes, depression, obseity and alcohol abuse, for instance - I was happy to help her out and meet a lot of nice people too - people interested in improving their physical and mental health.
Refined sugars and grains were taboo, Dorothy said, so I thought of a zucchini dish - stuffed zucchini two ways - filled with meat in this recipe:
and a vegetarian version filled with brown rice and cheese in this recipe.
A few nights later, I also made this quick pasta dish for myself using pancetta, zucchini and zucchini flowers. I omitted the cream that gave the dish I ate in Italy a luscious flavor and texture, but if you've been swimming your laps lately, feel free to indulge.
Pasta with Zucchini and Pancetta
Printable Recipe Here
For two people:
1/2 pound pasta
6 ounces pancetta, sliced into bits
1 medium zucchini or 2 small zucchini, sliced
10-12 zucchini flowers, sliced into bits (make sure you check for visitors)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
salt, pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Saute the pancetta in a saucepan. You may need to add a little oil, but not much since the pancetta gives off a lot of fat when it starts to cook. Before the pancetta is completely cooked, add the olive oil, onions and sliced zucchini and saute, seasoning with salt and pepper. Let everything cook for a few minutes, then add the minced garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain it directly into the pan with the zucchini, adding some of the pasta water to make a loose sauce. If you want to add cream here, you could slowly add about 1/2 cup.
Stir everything together until it's all amalgamated nicely, then turn off the heat and add about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Stir in the zucchini blossoms and serve at once, with more parmesan cheese.