Don’t you just love it when you randomly start making something, and it turns into something mindblowingly delicious? Something that you could eat every day and never get sick of? Something that you can’t stop raving about to your perplexed but grateful husband while simultaneously shoving it in your mouth?
Well, this is that something.
It all started when I was cruising food blogs and found a bunch of intriguing posts centered around raw zucchini cut into the shape of spaghetti. Now you all know how I love zucchini (don’t you?). And as it’s in season, there’s a lot of it to love. But I wasn’t feeling the raw angle and I felt like it needed a bit more oomph (as my mother would say) or substance, so I decided to combine it with actual spaghetti. Totally meta. And yet not too heavy because it ended up being half zucchini spaghetti and half real spaghetti.
And then the plot (and dish) thickened. I had some lovely roasted heirloom tomatoes lying around and decided to toss those in.
And then (yes there’s more), I was thinking about a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook (stop rolling your eyes, I didn’t actually purchase it, just saw a recipe on some website; but I have looked at it and there’s some good, if not groundbreaking, stuff in there, so don’t hate, people) where you bread and fry zucchini slices and thought that sounded nice, but too much of a pain to execute. So I came up with the idea of a cooked butter-parmesan-panko gremolata-type topping (translation: fancy breadcrumbs). That turned out to be a very good idea, to the point that I now want crunchy cheesy lemony breadcrumbs on pretty much everything.
The bottom line is that the result of my meandering, puttering day of cooking and fiddling is a damn good dish that I will be making again and again. And you should too.
2 medium zucchini, julienned lengthwise on a mandoline (or spiral slicer)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves (preferably roasted), chopped
1 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (optional)
1-2 tablespoons half & half
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 lb. spaghetti
1/4-1/2 cup pasta water, reserved
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for garnish
Zest of half a lemon
2 handfuls (about 20 good-sized leaves) of basil, chiffonaded and separated
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Cook the spaghetti til al dente and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water (before draining!).
In a nonstick sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cheese, stirring to combine. Keep stirring continuously and cook until breadcrumbs start to brown. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest and 1/2 the basil. Check for seasoning.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Add garlic and zucchini, cooking until just softened, but still holding its shape, about 3 minutes. Add the half & half and let it thicken a bit. Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in tomatoes (if using) and lemon juice; season to taste with salt and pepper (chili flakes would also be nice).
Add the pasta to the zucchini pan and cook for a couple minutes, adding a bit of the pasta water to loosen things up a bit. Transfer the zucchini pasta mixture to a serving dish and garnish with the breadcrumb topping. Season with more salt and pepper, the remaining basil and more Parmesan.