Zucchini too prolific? You just need more recipes

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a fellow gardener about what we chose to plant. Of course, we both planted a lot of tomatoes. No matter how much you pay, the taste of a homegrown tomato can’t be matched by anything from the supermarket. We also had the usual green beans, lettuce and beets in common.

She looked around and noticed my three large zucchini plants, and slowly shook her head. She then mentioned that she chose not to plant zucchini, as it was too prolific.

While native to the Americas, zucchini were introduced to Europe after colonization began. Serious cultivation began in Italy and spread throughout the continent. This young summer squash was then reintroduced to North America in the 1920s by way of Italian immigrants.

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Beloved all over Europe, it is a relative newcomer to the American cooking scene. The problem with zucchini, then, is not its high yield, but rather a dearth of recipes in the American pantheon.

Boiled, grilled, stuffed, baked or fried, zucchini is a versatile vegetable that deserves a more elevated place in American cuisine. Below is a summer pasta recipe filled with zucchini and redolent with fresh basil. Creamy ricotta replaces the usual tomato sauce. This is the chance to showcase your summer harvest.

Zucchini adds color and flavor to a simple pasta dish with a creamy ricotta sauce.

Pasta With Zucchini

  • 1 pound rotini, ziti, penne or other pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 pounds zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces (for larger zucchini, cut in half lengthwise before slicing)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta, either homemade or store bought
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, pecorino Romano or a mixture, plus more for serving

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the onions in the olive oil until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic and red pepper. Season generously with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the zucchini is rather soft, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Whisk together the basil, lemon zest and ricotta.

Cook the pasta al dente in the salted water, then drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking water.

Add the cooked pasta to the zucchini and turn heat to medium-high. Add 1/2 cup cooking water, then the ricotta mixture and grated cheese, stirring well. Cook for 1 minute more. Mixture should be creamy. Add a little more pasta water if necessary. Taste for salt. Serve with additional grated cheese.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.