Uriah Heep was, as we all know, very humble and he came to mind when I was having to make lunch about a month ago using very ‘humble’ ingredients: dried egg pasta, courgettes and tomatoes. I had a little dare with myself to see if I could jiggle about with them and produce something that would raise an appreciative and taken-by-surprise eyebrow. To do this, I decided to sauté part of the courgettes and fry the rest so as to play about with texture.
I cut up the cherry tomatoes and lavishly sprinkled salt all over them. I gently sweated or sautéed or whatever the verb is … the garlic in olive oil (please note that the olive oil covers the whole of the bottom of the saucepan: this is the rule of thumb, so choose the size of your saucepan carefully). I put the courgettes through a cascading waterfall of a wash …. and then patted them dry. I divided up the courgettes. Those on the left were for cooking in the pan, and those on the right were for frying. You want to use the green part of the courgettes and discard most of the white. The white part is basically tasteless (see what I meant about ‘humble’ before?). Add the chopped courgettes to the pan … cook them for about one minute, making sure they are all coated in the lovely garlic-scented olive oil. Then add the tomatoes …. Place a lid over the saucepan and let them cook/steam for a few minutes, until the courgettes are fork tender (this won’t take long, and it all depends on what kind of courgettes you are using). This time, slice the courgettes in rounds. Pat them dry with some kitchen paper or towel … And fry the rounds in plenty of hot olive oil. Drain and set aside. Camerino is a town in the Marche … I really like their egg pasta. Cook the pasta … Grate the parmesan …. (take into account at least one heaped tablespoon per person – I was cooking for 4 people, using 500g of dried egg pasta). When the sauce is ready, taste and add a little more salt if necessary. And then add whatever herbs you enjoy: in this case it was mint. Make sure the pasta is well coated with the sauce …. I prefer to do this directly in the pan, adding some of the cooking water if it dries out.Sprinkle a lavish amount of parmesan as a snowy cap to the pasta, place the fried courgettes on top, and finish off with a sprig of mint.
I am glad to say that I beat the Uriah Heep right out of this pasta dish … its taste was much ‘richer’ than the common ingredients might suggest. To finish off with something both Stephane Gabart of My French Heaven (http://myfrenchheaven.com/about/) and Gareth Jones with his Blue Collar Gastronomy would thoroughly appreciate (www.garethjonesfood.com/about) – every meal, even the simplest and least expensive, can be made special.
P.S. I tried sprinkling a little bit of bottarga over my helping of this pasta and … it didn’t really ‘add’ anything – basically it was just a case of painting the lily. Whereas, I think just a hint of breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil would have supplied the crunch factor.