This simple meal has comforted me in both kitchens home and away. When my friend and I backpacked through Europe after college (wow, almost a decade ago…) it because a staple of our diet anytime we had access to a kitchen, whether it was the communal “kitchen” of a hostel or our own apartment for the week. It was a dish that made us feel normal. For a few moments, we weren’t dirty travelers living our of our backpacks for the next 10 weeks, having picnics of bread, fruit and cheese from the local Aldi and saving up for real restaurant dinners when we could (not that it wasn’t great!). But it was the moments when we had access to a kitchen that were magical. When we could pretend that we weren’t moving every few days, but grounded, just for a few days. We dined on pasta, salads, soups and occasionally some chicken or beef. The meals were always simple as we had a limited pantry to work with, but somehow the zucchini over pasta was always a favorite.
Zucchini, garlic, salt, oil and pasta. The list of ingredients might be basic but the secret is high quality ingredients. Fresh picked zucchini, still warm from the sun, fresh pasta (or homemade if you really have the time), good quality oil and sea salt. While backpacking, we were lucky to have a decently sharp knife and would do everything by hand. Back in the states, I’m able to cut the preparation time by at least half thanks to my mandoline. You want to slice the zucchini extra thin so the oil and flavors saturate each piece and it cooks quickly. You can slice rounds but I prefer ribbons as it complements the strands of pasta better. The amount of zucchini might look overwhelming, but trust me, it shrinks significantly when cooked. With a mandoline the whole dish takes about 2o minutes. Prep everything while you boil the water, saute the zucchini while the pasta cooks, put it all together and enjoy!
Sautéed Zucchini over Pasta (Serves 2 Generous Portions)
- 6 oz fresh pasta
- 2 medium zucchini sliced into 1/16″ inch pieces (or the smallest you can manage)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp good quality olive oil plus more as needed
- Sea salt
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saute pan until shiny. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add zucchini ribbons and a generous pinch of sea salt. Saute for 7-10 minutes until zucchini is cooked through and has absorbed oil and flavors. (Feel free to add additional oil if needed. You want the ribbons to be well coated but not greasy).
Toss zucchini with pasta and serve immediately.
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