A few weeks ago, Walker’s mother sent me a chain email asking me to pass along a recipe to one of the people on the recipient list. It had to be an email you could remember without looking at anything, and given that I’ve spent the last three days making croissants and carefully reading every direction and tip I could find on it, I could use a little directionless cooking right now.
I first had this pasta in Beijing, with a family whose children I babysat. They were running out the door and instead of ordering a pizza like most American families do for their sitters, this family had made the two young children, both under 2, and me a nice meal.
While he was cleaning up after work, I sat in the kitchen with her and watched. A chopped red onion, two grated zucchinis, cream, salt, pepper, and a handful of parmesan cheese, and it was a meal. It was her way of sneaking vegetables into a dish her fussy two year old wouldn’t push away. I made it for Walker once, just as she did, and he raved, but I still thought there were some things missing.
I’ve made it not quite as much of an indulgence, and upped the flavor a little by adding a leek and a squash.
Zucchini Alfredo Pasta
Serves 4 very hungry vegetarians
1 pound pasta, I use a linguine
1 leek, sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic, diced finely
1 red onion, diced finely
2 small zucchinis, grated on a cheese grater
1 small yellow squash, grated
1 tbsp of your favorite green pesto (I use a basil pesto that I always keep on hand)
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 cups milk
Big handful of grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup pasta cooking water, reserved
salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil dried pasta until just barely al dente, with still a bit of a bite. Remove from heat, and pour off 1 cup of the starchy water to reserve. Drain pasta and set aside.
2. In a medium sized pot, melt the butter and olive oil together. Drop in leek, red onion and garlic, and sautee together until soft. Add the pesto, and stir until it is fragrant. Once you can smell your pesto, add the shredded vegetables. Continue stirring, tossing the vegetables together and letting the heat take the immediate crunch out of the zucchini and squash. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
3. Slowly add the cream, so it doesn’t spit at you, and continue stirring. Add milk, and then the starchy pasta water. When the sauce is heated through and begins to thicken, toss in a handful of parmesan cheese, stirring to combine.
4. Add pasta to the sauce. The pasta will continue to cook and pull in the flavors of the sauce. Stir, breaking apart the pasta and coating each strand, and let cook until the pasta is as you like it and the sauce has been absorbed a little. Taste and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. I almost never use more than a tiny bit of salt and this recipe always gets a little extra pinch of nice salt, even from me.
It’s wonderful comfort food and a super easy dinner. And it makes it easy to hide any veggies from picky two year olds or other picky eaters who may live at your house!