Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spaghetti with cream of zucchini

I promised to post a recipe for a pasta that was not penne and so, here it is!

The idea for this dish came about because of the large zucchini that had been sitting in my fridge for nearly a week and clearly needed to be dealt with. This is how a good number of my recipes come about (and I might guess, many other people's recipes as well): I think "hmmm, I need to get rid of this ___(insert perishable food item)___. Now, what would be a fun way to do that?"

This time, the idea of a creamy zucchini sauce really appealed to me and it was something I had never tried before, so I decided to give it a go!

While the basics of the sauce weren't that hard to figure out, I had a lot of trouble deciding which cheese I wanted to go with my zucchini (being slightly lactose-intolerant, I'm not a big fan of sauces that use actual cream, which is a shame). Ricotta seemed like an obvious choice but I just wanted something different this time. The only problem was that I didn't have any idea what that "something different" would be. I went to three grocery stores, hoping for that one cheese that would just pop out at me, and finally, at the third - the one with the best selection of cheeses - I found one that looked promising - a cheese by the name of Laura Chenel Chef Chevre. This soft chevre, I decided, was just the thing for my zucchini sauce.

An excellent idea, as it turned out. Though I'd never seen a zucchini-chevre pairing before, I'm a big fan of goat cheeses in general, and the lightness of the chevre was a good companion for the delicate zucchini. The only issue with this combination was that the sauce was a bit drier than I would have liked - an issue which can easily be fixed by adding in a bit of milk along with the cheese.

You will need:
75 g of spaghetti (I finally got a kitchen scale so I could actually measure instead of just guessing!)
One largish zucchini
One shallot
Extra-virgin olive oil, which I have just realized is what is being called "olio EVO" in all these Italian recipes, i.e. "olio ExtraVergine d'Oliva"
About 50 g chevre
Half a glass of white wine
A few spoonfuls of milk/cream

Chop up the shallot and wash the zucchini, cutting off the ends. Using the large holes of a cheese grater, grate the zucchini into little striplets. If you don't have a cheese grater, you can chop up the zucchini into very tiny pieces, or find some other tool that will help you get the zucchini into a similar state. Whether you add the peel or not is up to you. I like to add it in, but I have to chop it up since I haven't found a way to grate an entire zucchini without also grating my fingers!

When grating, do not use the fine holes of a grater or a microplane or any such thing. You will get a bunch of very messy and difficult mush, as I discovered the first time I tried to grate zucchini.

In a large pot, bring some water to a boil. When it's boiling, salt it and add the spaghetti. Then, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. When the oil is hot, add the chopped-up shallot. I always test the olive oil by flicking a few droplets of cold water onto it and seeing if they start jumping and sizzling. If they do, I know the oil is hot enough.

Once the shallot starts to become translucent and give off its lovely shallot aroma, add the grated zucchini. Sprinkle salt and pepper over everything, and then pour the white wine in.

Let the zucchini cook until the white wine has evaporated. While it's cooking, crumble or chop the chevre into smallish chunks. Once the wine has pretty much all evaporated, add in the cheese and the milk/cream. Stir everything up and drain the pasta, if you haven't already (you should be testing to see if it's done while preparing the sauce and drain it the minute it stops being raw in the center). Add the pasta into the sauce, stirring everything up again so the pasta is well-coated.

Serve warm and enjoy!

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