This post was created in partnership with Barilla®. All opinions are our own.
Have you heard the word? There’s a new sauce on the scene—it’s lean, mean, and vibrant green. This year’s 8th annual Barilla Pasta World Championship held last week in Paris brought together 14 chefs from around the world, each representing their country and competing for the title of World Master of Pasta. One of the finalists, Australian chef Nicola Pelligana created his signature dish—Spaghetti with Zucchini and Italian Cheese Foam—that captured our attention.
While summer may be over for most of the United States (it’s a brisk 87°F here in Eagle Rock today), thankfully zucchini is available year-round, and chef Nicola’s technique of sautéing this healthy green vegetable along with sliced shallots, then adding fresh herbs, two types of cheeses, and puréeing it into a smooth sauce and mixing it all perfectly with pasta was something we knew we had to try immediately.
Inspired by his recipe, this one-pan sauce is simple to make, and comes together quickly while the pasta cooks. First you sauté chopped zucchini and shallots, then blend them with parmesan and pecorino cheese, fresh mint and basil, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. It creates an ultra-creamy sauce that is aromatic, flavorful, and packed with nutrition. We decided to switch up the original recipe by using Barilla Rotini since the spiral twist shape holds the light sauce perfectly. Topped with freshly grated lime zest and crispy zucchini slices, this innovative recipe is a colorful companion to any side dish that you decide to make from our cookbook (hint hint).
It’s been a pleasure partnering with Barilla this year. We admire their passion and dedication to creating some of Italy’s greatest products over the last 140 years. Pasta provides the ideal canvas for a healthy meal, and it’s perfect for any occasion. For more pasta inspiration, check out some of these other delicious recipes that we created with Barilla this year. Mangia, e buon appetito!
Zucchini Rotini with Pecorino and Fresh Herbs
Serves 4 to 6
For the pasta:
16 ounces (454 g) Barilla Rotini Pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots (100 g), thinly sliced
4 medium zucchini (800 g), diced into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 1/2 ounces (70 g, about 2/3 cup) grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for serving
2 1/2 ounces (70 g, about 2/3 cup) grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (6 g) fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup (6 g) fresh mint leaves
4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, cubed
crispy zucchini, for garnish (recipe below)
grated lime zest, for garnish
Set a wide, deep skillet over medium heat, and when hot, add the olive oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to turn golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the diced zucchini and salt and toss to combine. Continue to sauté until softened and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and carefully transfer the cooked vegetables to a blender. Add the black pepper, red pepper flakes, pecorino romano, parmesan, basil, and mint. Blend until completely smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 3 to 4 quarts of water, and add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart. Cover, set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. When done, reserve about a cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot, and add the butter, tossing until the butter melts. Add the blended sauce and toss, adding pasta water a few tablespoons at a time until creamy—if the sauce seems dry, continue adding water until smooth.
Serve immediately while hot, topped with crispy zucchini (see below), grated lime zest, and additional pecorino romano cheese at the table. Enjoy!
vegetable oil, for frying
1 medium zucchini (200 g), sliced into 1/8-inch rounds and patted dry
Pour enough vegetable oil in a saucepan to cover the bottom by at least 1 inch. Attach a thermometer to the pan with the tip of the probe submerged in the oil but not touching the bottom. Set over high heat and raise the temperature to 355°F/180°C, then adjust the heat as needed to maintain that temperature. Carefully add the dry zucchini slices several at a time and cook until golden, flipping to cook evenly. When evenly golden, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to allow the oil to drain. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and repeat with as many additional slices as desired. Use while warm.