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15.06.2017

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A beautifully simple and fragrant pasta dish, with the delicate flavours of courgettes (zucchini) and their flowers. Few but fine quality ingredients like whole wheat spaghetti, white wine, olive oil and spearmint, are the perfect partners for this summer vegetable, and come together to create a delightful, aromatic meal.

Whole Wheat Courgette Pasta with Courgette Flowers www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: An open wooden box lined with a linen tea towel, containing whole courgettes with their flowers, propped up against the right side. There is also a bunch of spring onions and some sprigs of spearmint in the box next to the courgettes. Lying in the box on its left side, is some uncooked whole wheat spaghetti.

I love simple pasta dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I love the complicated ones as well, the ones loaded with cream, and five different types of cheeses, and meaty sauces, and bechamel, and lots of veggies and and and. Pasta is such a versatile food, you can cook it a thousand different ways. But no one can deny the gorgeous simplicity of a good plate of spaghetti that’s been cooked al dente with just a few great quality ingredients. Do you remember last year’s spaghetti with cherry tomatoes? That’s what I’m talking about.

Whole Wheat Courgette Pasta with Courgette Flowers www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: Hands holding a bunch of 3 courgettes with large flowers still attached, against a white background.

This spaghetti is of a similar philosophy. A relatively short ingredient list (ok, not as short as the cherry tomatoes one, but short enough), with the sole requirement that these few ingredients are of good quality. This is the secret to the success of such pasta dishes.

Whole Wheat Courgette Pasta with Courgette Flowers www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A close up of part of an oval platter with courgette spaghetti on it. The courgettes have been sliced into small round shapes, and there are speckles of orange from the flowers. To the left is a small bowl of cheese. Some cheese has been sprinkled on the pasta, and some of it has fallen on the white cotton tablecloth visible under the platter.

I did quite a few experiments to get to this recipe. Originally I wanted something creamy. Whatever I used though, seemed to overshadow the flavour of the courgettes. I was also using lemon, which again is a little too strong I think. I was ending up with very tasty sauces, but not enough courgettiness (or zucchininess if you will). In the end I decided to go with a thought I had right at the beginning, which was to use white wine; a thought I had abandoned in favour of lemon, as I don’t very often use wine in cooking. That my friends, is going to change. The wine made a huge difference, for the better. I also ditched the creamy ingredients – it’s summer, so they aren’t necessary – and went with just olive oil. It was the right thing to do.

Whole Wheat Courgette Pasta with Courgette Flowers www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A close view of the courgette flowers, attached to the courgettes. They are sticking up from inside a wooden box, propped against its side. To their left are some spring onions and spearmint sprigs, barely visible. The subject is on the bottom left side, leaving the top right of the photo with a white open space.

Somewhere along the way I also decided to pop some courgette flowers in there. I wasn’t sure it would work, but a quick internet search confirmed that indeed, it’s been done before (I mean using the flowers in a pasta dish). So I went ahead. I’ve only ever tried cooking zucchini flowers once in the past with unsatisfactory results, but more on that another time because I’m not giving up. So it turns out the flowers are quite delicious, and provide a little something different, as well as some lovely colour. But they aren’t vital to the recipe, so if you can’t find them just leave them out.

Whole Wheat Courgette Pasta with Courgette Flowers www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: The platter of courgette spaghetti to the left of the photo (the right side of the platter is outside the shot). To the top right of the photo are the handles of the serving spoons lying on a linen napkin.

So, some things to remember. First of all, I’ll say it again, quality of ingredients. Good olive oil (it makes a difference despite the small amount), good pasta (I used a great whole wheat spaghetti that is very close to white pasta in flavour), good wine (I would say something you would drink happily, but in my case it should be something even better than that – just between us, I have been known to drink some cheapish wines quite happily! haha) and good courgettes (it’s worth going organic here, they are more flavourful).

Another thing to keep in mind is that this dish is best enjoyed straight after cooking. Nothing bad happens to it, but it does lose a bit of its fragrance I think if it sits around for too long.

Whole Wheat Courgette Pasta with Courgette Flowers www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: a wooden box lined with a linen teatowel, containing courgettes with their flowers, spring onions and spearmint, and also some uncooked wholewheat spaghetti.  The box is on a cotton tablecloth and the light is coming in from behind it, lighting up the courgette flowers nicely.

Timing is very important with this sort of recipe. When you finish off pasta in its sauce, you need to have them both ready at the same time. The timings in the instructions allow for that. If you don’t feel confident with that, it’s best to make the sauce first then the pasta, since the spaghetti can stick if it sits around after it’s drained. If by chance you’re stuck with boiled pasta and your sauce is still cooking, drain it (reserving the water as per the recipe), pop it back in the pan and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil so it doesn’t stick.

Whole Wheat Courgette Pasta with Courgette Flowers www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: the platter of spaghetti with a couple of glasses of wine visible at the top of the photo, next to some courgette flowers. To the left of the platter is a small bowl of cheese. There is also cheese on the creased cotton tablecloth. To the right are the serving spoons on a folded linen napkin.

Well, I think that’s it for pointers and notes. I hope I didn’t make it sound harder than it is. Oh, sorry, one more. Have all your ingredients measured out and ready before you start. Even the salt and pepper. It makes life SO much easier!

I hope you try the recipe, it’s really delicious, light and actually very filling with the whole wheat pasta. Do you have any simple yet elegant pasta dishes you love?

Whole Wheat Courgette Pasta with Courgette Flowers www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: The platter of spaghetti in the top right corner, and a small plate with a pattern around the edge in the bottom centre of the photo. The plate is sitting on a folded linen napking, and has some courgette pasta on it. The serving spoons are lying in the large platter. To the top left of the photo is a glass of wine and a small bowl of grated cheese. There another glass of wine next to the plate on its left.

Ingredients

3 Tbs olive oil, good quality

2 spring onions, small, finely chopped (use as much of the green part as there is white)

600gr courgettes, organic, sliced (round slices if small, half-moon slices if medium, quartered slices if large)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

250gr whole wheat spaghetti (mine cooks in 10-14 minutes)

60ml white wine, good quality

8 courgette flowers (female, stamens removed, base cut off, flowers sliced into strips vertically)

1 tsp spearmint, finely chopped

50gr pecorino cheese (I used a Greek pecorino from Amfilochia)

Step 1

Put the water on for the pasta. You want it boiling away (salt it well), ready for when you are.

Step 2

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan (one that will fit all the ingredients later). Add the spring onion, courgettes, salt and pepper, stir to coat and let cook for 6 minutes stirring frequently.

Step 3

When the courgettes have been on for 6 minutes put the spaghetti in to boil. Stir well.

Step 4

Let the courgettes cook for another 4 minutes, then turn up the heat to medium high and cook for one more minute (total 11 minutes).

Step 5

Pour the wine over the courgettes and let it bubble for half to one minute.

Step 6

Add the courgette flowers and spearmint. Mix well and let cook for 2 minutes longer.

Step 7

By this time your pasta should have been boiling for 8 minutes. Working quickly, drain it reserving 1 cup of water. Transfer it to the pan with the courgettes, add the 2 remaining tablespoons of olive oil and half a cup of the pasta water. Turn heat to medium low and let cook for 3 minutes to absorb the liquids. The pasta will be al dente. If you want it softer you can cook for a minute or two longer, adding pasta water as necessary.

Step 8

Turn the heat off and add the cheese. Stir and serve immediately.

Note: Times are based on a particular brand of spaghetti that cooks in 10-14 minutes. If yours takes longer, put the pasta in to boil earlier.
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The Greek side of this post is sponsored by a local pasta brand. All opinions are my own.

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