It was Friday night and I was supposed to meet my friend Peggy for a drink around 7. I’m not sure how my brain works sometimes, but I thought “wouldn’t it just be easier if Peggy, and her husband Tod, came for dinner.” Like, you know, having an impromtu dinner party is a lot easier than meeting a girlfriend for drinks.
And, since I was having people over to dinner, why not include my friend Eugenia?
So, there I was, 6pm, people arriving in an hour and a half and not only did I not have anything in the house to cook, I hadn’t even decided what to make.
An extremely quick trip to the the fruttivendola and I came up with a menu that I knew I could pull together in about an hour.
Here’s the menu:
- Martinis and Roasted Almonds (because, you know, the original idea was cocktail-based)
- Spaghetti with Zucchini and Sheep’s Milk Cheese (because I did have a great pack of pasta)
- Roasted Radicchio with Balsamic (kind of like this)
- Roasted Broccolo Romano with Pomegranate and Hazlenuts (inspired by a recipe in Jerusalem)
- Peggy brought a totally over the top rich and creamy chocolate cake.
- Eugenia brought two loaves of fantastically dense, grainy bread.
While it wasn’t quite as easy as just meeting a girlfriend for a Friday night drink, it was definitely a lot more fun. And, do I have to say it? Much more delicious.
- 500 g/ 1 lb Spaghetti
- 700 grams / 1.5 lbs zucchini
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon medium strength ground hot pepper (I used this), or more to taste.
- 1 cup grated sharp sheep’s milk cheese
- 1 cup torn basil leaves
- Slice the zucchini into ¼ inch slices.
- Pour the olive oil into a large pan big enough to hold all of the zucchini in one layer, more or less, and then all of the pasta afterwards.
- Heat the oil to medium high, then add the zucchini. Give it a good stir, then season with salt and hot pepper. Let cook over medium high heat without stirring too much. It’s good to let the edges get brown, but make sure you stop cooking before the zucchini turns to mush. This should only take 10 minutes, tops.
- In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until about 1 minute away from being done.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Add the drained pasta to the zucchini, and stir and mix over medium heat. Add ½ cup of the cooking water, and continue stirring. Turn off heat, and add both the cheese and the rest of the cooking water, alternating and stirring, to create a creamy consistency.
- Finally, mix in most of the basil.
- Serve into individual dishes and top with a bit more basil.
I was also able to find late season zucchini romanesche, which remain very firm when cooked. If you can’t find them, try to use baby zucchini, which won’t completely fall apart.
I used some aged sheep’s milk cheese that Eugenia had brought me from Corsica. Hard enough to grate, but not as piquant or over bearing as pecorino Romano. Good substitutes would be and aged pecorino from the Siena area, or even one from Spain or France.
The dish was provided by Sberna, in Deruta and is the classic Gallo Verde pattern.