I met Domenica Marchetti when I started writing about food. I think it was about six or so years ago and we were seated together at the Symposium of Food Writers at the Greenbrier. She was already a very accomplished journalist and I learned a lot by talking with her. Today, she has a proven track record and several award-winning and well-recognized books under her belt. And she continues her journey as a terrific writer with a weekly column for the Washington Post Food blog and another one for the newspaper.
I knew that Domenica was working on her pasta book and was lucky enough to taste some of the pasta at her home (her home-made pasta) and I can tell you this: No one does pasta like Domenica. HANDS DOWN! If I could have it my way, I would buy a house right next door to her and beg her to feed me each day.
The Glorious Pasta of Italy is a celebration of not just amazing Italian cuisine but of this writer’s talent and her passion. The recipes on each page entice and the photos are breathtaking. And there is something for every level of cook: you can take time and follow her detailed and precise instructions on making several types of home-made pastas or you can make one of her luscious sauces or you can make a quick dinner that is just delightful.
I am predicting that this book will sweep the awards this coming year.
And now I am giving away a copy of this lovely book! To win: please go to FB and “LIKE” this page (if you do not have a social media account, you can skip this step.. we run on the honor system here!) and then leave a comment here as to why you want to win this book. I will select a winner at 4:30 EST today. US and Canadian residents only please.
Linguine with Slow-Cooked Zucchini, Basil, and Cream
From “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle Books)
Makes 4 to 6 servings
A wonderful thing happens to zucchini when you slowly cook it over a low flame. It transforms from a bland, watery vegetable to a lovely, pulpy sauce with a subtly nutty flavor. Of course, the addition of good olive oil, savory pancetta, and cream doesn’t hurt. Slippery linguine is my first choice here, but spaghetti works well, too. This dish is light yet substantial, so I like to serve it with a side of sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and chopped fresh basil.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, cut into narrow strips
2 cloves garlic, cut into paper-thin slices
6 to 8 small to medium zucchini, sliced into thin coins
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 large fresh basil leaves, cut into narrow strips (chiffonade)
1 pound dried linguine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the pancetta begins to render its fat and is slightly crispy. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the garlic begins to soften. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the zucchini, salt, and a generous amount of pepper and cook slowly over medium to medium-low heat, gently tossing from time to time, for about 30 minutes, or until completely tender. The zucchini should be very soft and pulpy, and some (but not all) of the coins will have broken up.
Gently stir in the cream and cook for a few minutes longer, or until the cream has thickened slightly. Turn off the heat and add the basil, tossing the sauce gently to incorporate. Reheat the sauce briefly when the pasta is almost done cooking.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the pasta, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
Transfer the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Add the Parmigiano and pecorino cheeses and toss again, adding more cooking water if necessary. Transfer the dressed pasta to a warmed serving bowl or shallow individual bowls and serve immediately.
Gorgeous photo of the pasta by Sala Kannan