My roommates and I have started a new tradition called “Chicken Wednesday.” We’re nothing if not creative, and it’s just what it sounds like: One of us whips up a bunch of chicken on the grill and everyone else is responsible for the accoutrements. This week we had our friend Jenny staying with us while she was visiting from New York. To thank us for our hospitality, she brought with her some zucchini from her CSA. (She said she saved them just for us, but I’m convinced she didn’t want to return to questionable vegetables in her apartment!)
We put the zucchini to good use in a light, citrusy pasta dish that was the perfect accompaniment for grilled chicken. Lightly frying the zucchini gives it a sweet, caramelized flavor that acts as a nice foil for the other ingredients, which essentially make up a deconstructed pesto. (I like to keep the ingredients separate so the pine nuts can add some crunch.) It’s a great midweek meal or side dish, no matter the day!
Pasta with Fried Zucchini
1 pound small noodle pasta, like rotini or casarecce
1½ pounds (about 2 large) zucchini, cut into ¼-inch rounds
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing
½ cup minced basil leaves, plus extra for garnishing
¼ cup pine nuts
2 teaspoons lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Line a dinner plate with paper towels. Cook pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add enough zucchini to cover bottom of pan in single layer. Cook until zucchini has started to brown around edges, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook until second side has browned, about 3 more minutes. Use spatula or tongs to transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle fried zucchini with salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini slices, adjusting heat so vegetables don’t burn and adding more oil 2 teaspoons at a time, if necessary.
2. When pasta is finished cooking, reserve ½ cup pasta water, then drain. Return pasta to pot or transfer to large mixing bowl.
3. Combine pasta with cheese, basil leaves, pine nuts, lemon juice and lemon zest. Toss gently and season liberally with salt and pepper. If pasta looks dry, add reserved pasta cooking water as necessary, a couple tablespoons at a time. Serve, garnishing with additional Parmesan and torn basil leaves.