This pasta is a peaen to the power of flour, milk, egg yolk, and pasta water. With small quantities of these four ingredients, it's possible--and relatively quick and easy--to create a sauce of rich creaminess. On top of that, this particular recipe from Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Italian Cooking calls for a pile of deep-fried zucchini strips and a handful of cheese. All said and done, this isn't exactly the healthiest dinner I've made recently.
But it was one of the most delicious, and next time, I'd make it healthier by forgoing the deep-frying in favor of a quick saute for the zucchini strips--which would be similar in texture, but would save time, calories, and the expense of all that oil. The key is to save lots of pasta water, which will bring out the creaminess if the dish is plated and gets too dry. It will also save you if the egg yolk begins to scramble in the pan, like mine did.
- 1 pound fresh zucchini, cut into 3-inch long matchsticks
- 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon flour dissolved in 1/3 cup milk
- 1 egg yolk, beaten gently with a fork
- 1/2 cup Parmigianno-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup pecorino
- 2/3 cup torn fresh basil leaves or chopped parsley
- 1 pound pasta, fusilli or other pasta that will capture the creamy sauce
In a skillet or pan, fry the zucchini strips over medium-high heat in the vegetable oil (they should sizzle when dropped in), in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, until lightly browned, turning occassionally. Dry on paper towels.
Bring a large pot of salty water to boil. Cook the pasta until al-dente, reserving some pasta water.
In the meantime, in a large (12-inch) skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium until it foams then subsides. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the flour/milk mixture, whisking. Cook for a minute or so, until it begins to thicken, then season with a pinch of salt. Add the zucchini strips and cook for an additional minute, turning them to coat.
Remove the skillet from the heat and quickly swirl in the last tablespoon of butter and the egg yolk. Whisk constantly to avoid scrambling the egg. Add the drained cooked pasta and toss, then add the cheese and basil or parsley and toss again. Add pasta water little by little, stirring, until the pasta is moist and creamy. Serve immediately.