Playing Rachael's Cool as a Zucchini Pasta

In honor of NYC's San Gennaro Festival, an annual tradition of 11 days of Italian food and fun on the streets of Little Italy, Rach whips up a spicy Italian pasta of her own. (PS: it's also vegetarian!)

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds zucchini, about 2 medium
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes, ⅓ palmful
  • Salt
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 pound spaghetti, or orecchiette
  • 1 ½ cups fresh ricotta cheese, sheep or cow milk, stir in the excess liquid or whey (do not drain)
  • 12 - 15 basil leaves, torn or chiffonade
  • Pepper
  • Freshly grated cheese to pass at table, if using sheep's milk ricotta, pass Pecorino; if using cow's milk, pass Parmigiano-Reggiano
Yield
Serves: 4
Preparation

Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta.

If using spaghetti, halve the zucchini and scrape out seeds with a small spoon and thinly slice into half-moons. If you’re using orecchiette, chop zucchini into a ¼-inch dice.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with EVOO, 3 turns of the pan. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, chili flakes, and salt, stir a couple of minutes, then add zucchini and cook 4 to 5 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add wine and reduce the heat. Add the zest of the lemon.

Salt the pasta water generously and add the pasta. Cook 2 minutes less than directed by package so about 7 for spaghetti and 10 to 11 minutes for orecchiette. Remove a cup of starchy cooking water from the pot.

Drain pasta and add to zucchini along with the ricotta and the juice of the zested lemon. Toss to combine 1 to 2 minutes to absorb flavor. Wilt basil into pasta and sauce. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve in shallow bowls and top with grated cheese at the table.