Dinner Tonight: Penne with Fried Zucchini, Sun Golds, and Arugula

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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]



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Ever glanced around your kitchen and realized that you have way more zucchini than any man or woman could reasonably eat in a year? I'm there. But instead of fretting about the pounds stacking up on my counter, I looked for solutions.

Cooks from southern Italy know a thing or two about transforming epic quantities of vegetables into something memorable. And when you're dealing with the problem of too much zucchini, the one answer I found was to fry it in olive oil until it dramatically reduces to a surprisingly meaty and eggplant-like base. I knew a great sauce for pasta wasn't far off.

Though "fried," I was able to cook 1 1/2 pounds of thinly sliced zucchini rounds with only 1/4 cup of olive oil. And since the zucchini doesn't suck up oil like eggplant can, I was able to cook the rest of the ingredients for the sauce in the remaining oil. For balance, I used some other in-season produce. After the zucchini was done, garlic and red pepper flakes were added, and then quickly joined by halved sweet Sun Gold tomatoes. They cooked for just a couple minutes until they softened slightly, but before they lost their freshness. Also, when the pasta only had five minutes left to cook, I added a couple handfuls of bitter arugula.

When everything is mixed up, you have dish that is sweet, spicy, bitter, and savory—even though no meat comes anywhere close to the skillet.

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Penne with Fried Zucchini, Sun Golds, and Arugula »