Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spaghetti alla Carbonara di Zucchine

When it comes to eating healthy on a budget, you can't beat zucchini. Farmers are practically giving them away at the market, all the way the tender baby summer squash for sauteeing to the behemoths that only have a future in zucchini bread. Because I like to try as many different vegetables as I can from the market, I decided that I needed to make something with zucchini when the bumper crop first started piling up. I've made plenty of zucchini breads and muffins in the past, but this time I was in the mood for something decidedly more savory, like this wonderful pasta.

This is the perfect Monday night dinner in my book-vegetarian, quick to prepare, and full of whole grains and veggies without being boring. Though it may be tempting to try and get the most for your money by purchasing the biggest zucchini you can find, in recipes like this one where the zucchini flavor is right at the forefront, only use small or medium zucchini for the best flavor. The whole grain pasta goes perfectly with savory cheese and eggs, the freshness of the zucchini cutting through the fat just enough to keep the dish light. I'm not going to lie and say this is the same as true spaghetti alla carbonara, but it is a delicious meal that can be served happily to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. If you'd like to gild the lily a bit and come closer to the original dish, start by frying some bacon, cool and crumble it, and substitute some of the olive oil with rendered bacon fat. While on the subject of olive oil, in this recipe I'd opt for a decent olive oil, since it will be a significant contribution to the flavor palate, but certainly not your best since you'll be cooking with it. If you are adding bacon and cooking with the fat, the flavor of the pork fat will go a long way towards masking a less than stellar olive oil. And if you'd like to go whole hog with indulgence, you could could use a combination of bacon fat and butter in lieu of the olive oil, also a valid option if you're trying to feed someone who doesn't like the flavor of olive oil. The next time you're faced with a bounty of zucchini and looking to venture beyond zucchini bread, give this savory option a try. Light, fresh, and flavorful, it definitely deserves a place at your summer table.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara di Zucchine
from Bon Appetit
serves 4

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 pound medium zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
6 large fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces, divided

1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add zucchini and sauté until beginning to color, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; discard garlic.

2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and Parmesan in large bowl to blend. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta; add to egg mixture and toss to coat (heat from pasta will cook eggs).

3. Add zucchini mixture and half of basil to pasta; stir gently to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining basil and serve.

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