On Sunday, I did my first triathlon in three years. Don’t worry, I had no illusions about winning – just in it to finish, which I did in the time I wanted and injury free. Yea!
My friend Eddie asked me what I was going to eat the night before and I really wasn’t sure. I knew I was going to have pasta, but didn’t have a plan for what to do with it. I bought a variety of vegetables and figured I’d wing it. Then, I came home to do some chores and put on a recorded episode of Jaime Oliver’s show Jaime at Home. I started taping it because the show centers around him cooking things he(or his gardener) has grown. This week the episode was about zucchini. Score! I always have zucchini.
Jaime’s last recipe was a zucchini carbonara and I decided it was perfect. He had a lighter recipe than some carbonara’s, but it still had a great rich taste. I substituted the penne with whole wheat penne and used less cream.
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 medium green and yellow courgettes
4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
100ml double cream
2 good handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
12 thick slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, cut into chunky lardoons
a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get hold of flowering thyme)
optional: a few courgette flowers
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Halve and then quarter any larger courgettes lengthways. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and slice the courgettes at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne. Smaller courgettes can simply be sliced finely. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions.
To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly and put to one side.
Heat a very large frying pan (a 35cm one is a good start – every house should have one!), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the courgette slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the courgettes become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.
It’s very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the courgettes, bacon and lovely flavours, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)
Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straight away. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any courgette flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long.