Pasta with zucchini, pine nuts and Parmesan.

Years ago (in 2004—that counts for years ago in the blogosphere), Clotilde Dusoulier posted on her Chocolate & Zucchini blog a recipe that absolutely caught my eye because of her description:

On a night of ravenous hunger, decide that what you want is something warm soft and tasty with a little crunch, to be eaten in a bowl with a spoon, curled up on the couch and reading a magazine.

Precisely. I had bookmarked this recipe for zucchini with pasta, when I came across the key ingredient—a small, toasted pasta called Fregola Sarda—in an Italian specialty market. Fregola is shaped like Israeli couscous, aka, pearl pasta. But it’s toasted to a golden brown, which gives it the most wonderful, deep flavor. I’ve since found Fregola many times in specialty stores; if you can’t find it, see the variations below. This recipe is, indeed, comforting; it’s one of my go-to recipes all year long. Be sure to sprinkle the dish generously with grated Parmesan and a touch of coarse sea salt before serving; the melty cheese and the crunchy bite of the salt really makes this dish sing.

Even better: This zucchini pasta recipe makes a fantastic Leftover Lunch the next day.

pasta with zucchini and pine nuts

(adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini)

3 zucchini, in very small dice or, alternately, julienned on a mandoline
2 Tbsp. olive oil
handful or two of pine nuts, toasted
1 Tbsp. of dried Herbes de Provence
6 ounces (or so) Fregola Sarda (or see variations below)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan plus more for sprinkling
coarse pepper and sea salt

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook Fregola according to package directions (about 10 minutes or longer, depending on the size of the pasta). In the meantime, warm olive oil in a large skillet; add zucchini and toss to coat. Sauté until a bit golden and translucent. Sprinkle with Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. When the pasta is done, drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta to zucchini in your skillet; add liquid to make a sauce. Add Parmesan and pine nuts. Dish into pasta bowls or plates, sprinkling with additional grated Parmesan and sea salt. Serve immediately.

Variation 1: If you can’t find Fregola Sarda, you might try this with Israeli couscous (pearl pasta); orzo would also work. I’ve not tried this, but I think it would do the trick: Spread the pasta on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven until nicely toasted.

Variation 2: In my book, any combination of zucchini and pasta is a winner. You could do this with fettuccine, and slice the zucchini thinly into long ribbons (a vegetable peeler is perfect for this). Or julienne the squash on a mandoline.

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