When you're making pasta at home, you don't want your sauce to be complicated or overpowering. This recipe is a triumph for simplicity, mixing sautéed zucchinis (and their flowers) with garlic, shallots and a hint of saffron. If you don't have time to make your own pasta, dry spaghettini will work beautifully too.
- 2 cups (300 g) type ‘00’ flour
- 3 eggs
- semolina or polenta flour, for dusting
- 5–6 zucchini (courgettes), with their blossoms attached
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (optional)
- 2 golden shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, skin removed, bashed with the palm of your hand
- 4 tbsp hot water infused with 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper
- roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 30 minutes
To make the pasta, place the flour on a wooden board, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs and salt. Mix together using your fingers or a fork, then knead vigorously for about 10 minutes. At first it will look crumbly, but once your body heat activates the starch in the flour the dough will change its texture, transforming into a smooth, firm ball. (If you want to speed things up you can mix the dough ingredients in a food processor until they resemble wet sand, then tip onto a floured board, bring together with your hands and knead for 1 minute.) Wrap the dough in plastic film and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Cut the pasta dough into quarters. Work with one piece at a time and keep the rest wrapped in plastic film to prevent it from drying out. Flatten the piece of dough with the palm of your hand, then pass it through the pasta machine’s widest setting three or four times, folding the dough into three each time. Continue passing the dough, each time through a thinner setting, until you get to the second-last setting or the sheet is roughly 3 mm thick. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can use a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease.
If you happen to have a chitarra frame, position the pasta sheet onto it, then use a rolling pin to press it down on the metal strings to obtain your noodles. Lift the noodles out, dust the with semolina and set aside. If you are using a pasta machine, pass the rolled sheets through the spaghetti setting, then dust the noodles with semolina.
Separate the zucchini from their blossoms. Cut the zucchini into small rounds and set aside. Gently open the yellow flowers and remove the stems, then cut the petals into 1 cm strips.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat, add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1–2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the zucchini rounds and cook, tossing regularly, for 4–5 minutes or until golden. Pour in the saffron-infused water and stir to combine. Add the zucchini petal strips and remove from the heat – the residual heat will wilt them slightly. Taste for salt and adjust according to your taste.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes or until al dente. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Toss the pasta in the sauce, adding some of the cooking water if necessary.
Finish with a grinding of white pepper, a scattering of parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, if liked, and serve hot.
• Dry spaghettini will work beautifully too, and will turn this rather laborious dish into a quick and easy mid-week meal.