Spaghettini Squared: Pasta with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Zucchini
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 pound whole-wheat dried spaghettini
- 3/4 pound zucchini
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup Basil Oil, recipe follows
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus a small piece
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
While the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, cut the zucchini with the fine French-fry cutter on a mandoline. If you do not have one, cut by hand into the longest, finest julienne you can manage. Season with salt and pepper. If your zucchini is very finely cut, it does not need to be cooked. Otherwise, place in a colander, suspend over the pasta pot, cover the pot, and steam the zucchini until still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.
Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and saute briefly until light brown. Turn on the exhaust fan and add the red pepper flakes. Quickly mix in the basil and parsley and remove from the heat.
Pour the pasta into a warm serving bowl; add the zucchini, basil oil, the garlic mixture, and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Toss well, adding cooking water as needed to make a smooth sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as needed. Grate about 2 tablespoons Parmesan over the top and serve at once.
Cook's Note: The reason to save the basil oil to toss with the pasta at the end is so the oil will have a fresh, uncooked taste.Basil Oil (and other herb flavored oils):
In a blender, puree the herbs and oil until completely smooth. Put the mixture in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over moderate heat. Simmer for 45 seconds, then pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Don't press on the mixture, but you can tap the strainer against your hand to get the oil to drip through faster.
Immediately strain the oil again through a flat-bottomed paper filter. If the filter clogs, you may need to change the filter partway through. It's okay to pick the filter up and squeeze it gently to get the oil out faster, but be careful not to break the filter.
(Sometimes a little dark liquid comes through the filter first. Don't worry; that's water. It will settle to the bottom because it is heavier than the oil.)
Let the filtered oil settle for a few hours, then pour it off the dark liquid. Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.
Cook's Notes: The oil passes through the filter faster if it's filtered while still hot, so set up your filter before you start the recipe. You'll need a flat-bottomed paper filter, like those used for some drip coffee machines. Cone-shaped filters tend to get clogged.
Yield: about 1 1/3 cups
Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello