Friday, August 5, 2011

Inspired by the Alban Hills

This dish of orecchiette with pancetta, zucchini and zucchini blossoms was inspired by a lunch my son and I ate on our way from Abruzzo to Rome. We'd knew we'd be driving right through the Alban Hills, and a series of towns known as "Castelli Romani," where one of my close friends, Clo, owned a home. Since her death two years ago, her son George and daughter Claire have now taken over running the place, called Casale Sonnino, which produces some of the best olive oil you'll ever taste. They also open their 18th century villa to paying guests and it's a great retreat for anyone who wants to be close to Rome, but away from the frenetic tourist masses.

How would you like to fling open the shutters in the morning and wake up to this view?

George treated my son and me to a wonderful lunch at a restaurant in the nearby town of Monte Porzio Catone. My son ordered this platter of penne with zucchini, zucchini blossoms and pancetta - loaded with cream and deliciousness.

I had been eating so much pasta at that point, I decided my waistline needed a break. I ordered the stuffed zucchini, a recipe very similar to one I posted on my blog last summer, only this dish used the long zucchini, while mine were the round variety.

As you can tell, zucchini recipes abound in restaurant menus right now all over Italy - and why not? They're so easy to grow and vegetable gardens here and in Italy are bursting forth with enough zucchini to feed a small country.

When my friend Dorothy asked me to do a cooking demonstration for a weekly group she hosts called "The Suppers Program" - a group that helps people learn about good nutrition to combat mental and health issues of any sort - from diabetes, depression, obseity and alcohol abuse, for instance - I was happy to help her out and meet a lot of nice people too - people interested in improving their physical and mental health.

 Refined sugars and grains were taboo, Dorothy said, so I thought of a zucchini dish - stuffed zucchini two ways - filled with meat in this recipe:

and a vegetarian version filled with brown rice and cheese in this recipe.

A few nights later, I also made this quick pasta dish for myself using pancetta, zucchini and zucchini flowers. I omitted the cream that gave the dish I ate in Italy a luscious flavor and texture, but if you've been swimming your laps lately, feel free to indulge.

Pasta with Zucchini and Pancetta

Printable Recipe Here

For two people:

1/2 pound pasta

6 ounces pancetta, sliced into bits

1 medium zucchini or 2 small zucchini, sliced

10-12 zucchini flowers, sliced into bits (make sure you check for visitors)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup onion, minced

salt, pepper to taste

pasta water

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Saute the pancetta in a saucepan. You may need to add a little oil, but not much since the pancetta gives off a lot of fat when it starts to cook. Before the pancetta is completely cooked, add the olive oil, onions and sliced zucchini and saute, seasoning with salt and pepper. Let everything cook for a few minutes, then add the minced garlic and cook for a few minutes more.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain it directly into the pan with the zucchini, adding some of the pasta water to make a loose sauce. If you want to add cream here, you could slowly add about 1/2 cup.

Stir everything together until it's all amalgamated nicely, then turn off the heat and add about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Stir in the zucchini blossoms and serve at once, with more parmesan cheese.

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  1. A beautiful place and amazing food! Your salad looks very scrumptious.



  2. Your dishes are making me drool before I've even finished my morning coffee! The pasta looks wonderful! I haven't made stuffed zucchini in forever. I definitely have to plant some in my garden next year, so that I can make both dishes!

  3. Ohmygosh Linda, this dish looks almost as beautiful as the views! I can't wait to travel to Italy later this year!

  4. Wow-my mouth is watering and I can't wait to get in the kitchen and try both the pasta and your zucchini. Grazie!

  5. Ciao Linda, I know so well those places but I miss them and I would like to spend some time again there.
    And stuffed zucchini are one of my favourite dish. Big hugs from Siena. Pat

  6. Ok I am sitting here kind of dishes for sure!
    Gorgeous Linda!

  7. What a fabulous view from that open window! I could sit there all day admiring it.

    I love zucchini as it is one of the most versatile vegetables to prepare. The stuffed versions you made looked very delectable and the pasta recipe is fabulous! The addition of zucchini flowers is so wonderful!

  8. Why not indeed! I love zucchini, which is a good thing since they are everywhere these days!

    Your pictures of the Castelli really take me back. Our place outside Rome had a gorgeous view of them in the distance… and it was a favorite destination for some unforgettable day trips.

  9. I:
    a. want this
    b. want to stay there

  10. That view is to die for! It almost looks like a painting. Just perch me on a chair in front of it with a plate of pasta or your zucchini and I will be a very happy girl!

  11. I am dreaming of a trip to Italy and trying to make decisions on where to spend my time. Love everything about this post Linda.

  12. I would think I was still dreaming if I opened my shutters to that view. No, make that, I'd "know"! Love every dish in this post -- it's my kind of eating!

  13. Che posto delizioso Linda, mi piace!Un abbraccio e buon weekend...

  14. Wow, all of those dishes look amazing. I'll admit, creamy dishes like that make me weak in the knees. They look delicious! Nice to meet you, Linda! :-)

  15. What an amazing view. And that pasta dish looks amazing too!

  16. Wow, what a view! I confess, that I doubt I could have resisted the cream version of this. Kudos to you on making a healthier choice, which also looks wonderful. I'm craving pasta for tonight, and you are beginning to start a craving for me.

  17. Hi Linda - I like how the zucchini disks mirror the orrecchiette shape.

    I'd love to fling open those shutters!

  18. Enjoy your post and will definitely make the recipe with my farm share zucchini!