One of the things I wholeheartedly admire about Italian cooking is its absolute disdain for messing with the classics, so I do feel a little guilty for sneaking fine threads of courgette into this spaghetti dish. There are a few rules I strictly abide by when cooking pasta, however. Heavily salting the pan of water is essential to have properly seasoned pasta – it should be as salty as the sea. Starch is your friend – it will emulsify the sauce, so you don’t want to rinse the pasta after cooking, and for the same reason you should always scoop a mugful of water from your pan of cooking water before draining so that it can be added later. Once you’ve drained your pasta, return it to the pan with extra fat (butter, olive oil or bone marrow) and as much reserved pasta water as is required to loosen it, then and coat it in the sauce by tossing.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
PHOTOGRAPHY: KRISTIN PERERS
STYLING: FRANKIE UNSWORTH
Season: Summer to Early Autumn
2 courgettes, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
250g pancetta, cut into 1cm cubes
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon plus the juice from 1⁄2
1 knob butter
100g Parmesan, grated
1 tsp coarsely cracked black pepper
10g fresh marjoram or oregano leaves
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions, setting a timer for 1 minute less than the cooking time.
In the meantime, use a julienne peeler or a spiraliser to make thin strips or spirals from the courgettes. Alternatively, use a mandolin or vegetable peeler to make long ribbons, then slice them into 2mm strips. Set aside.
Place the olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the pancetta and fry for 3 minutes, or until golden. Add the garlic and cook for a further 1–2 minutes (just enough to soften but not brown). Stir in half the lemon zest and set aside.
When the pasta is almost done (fish out a strand with a pair of tongs and check if it’s al dente), use a mug to scoop out about 100ml of the pasta water and set it to one side. Drain the pasta in a colander.
Add the butter to the pancetta mixture and return the pan to the heat. Pour in most of the pasta water and lemon juice, then add the pasta and courgettes. Use tongs to stir everything around and coat well. Add more of the pasta water if it needs more moisture. Finally, stir in half the Parmesan, a pinch of the black pepper and a few of the marjoram leaves.
I like to serve pasta in wide, shallow bowls so the spiral arrangement can be seen to best effect. To achieve this, use tongs or a fork and spoon to twirl it in the same way as you would a mouthful of pasta before eating it. Pour some of the liquid from the pan over the top, add a little extra Parmesan, then the rest of the lemon zest, herbs and black pepper.
We all know we eat with our eyes first, and in her book The New Art of Cooking Frankie shows how a little attention to detail in cooking and plating up our food can make it all the more delicious to eat. Published by Bloomsbury with photography © Kristin Perers.