Zucchini Glazed Pasta: Pasta Glassata
This recipe makes unusual and creative use of zucchini, which are now in season. Instead of boiling the pasta in water until fully al dente, many Italian chefs finish cooking the pasta in vegetable juice. The result is pasta that is flavorful, yet low in fat with a lovely natural color. Chefs use this technique with lots of different vegetables like carrots, beets and even red cabbage.
You can use a juicer to extract the zucchini’s juice or just grate them. Grating has an advantage as you get not only the juice but also pieces of fiber-rich zucchini bits for added texture. Zucchini quickly releases lots of delicious green juice, which is used to cook the pasta, coating it in a gorgeous glossy glaze. The grated pieces can then be tossed with hot pasta to complete the light, yet richly satisfying dish. Or you can gently fry the grated pieces in a little olive oil and garlic for a more intense flavor. No matter which method you use, not a bit of vibrant, fresh zucchini flavor goes to waste.
This dish its practically fat free, light and healthy; simple to-make but has a fancy, chef-y touch; tasty and pretty. The only trick to this dish is to add the zucchini juice only a few tablespoons at a time, so that it thickens into a glorious, deliciously glaze.
Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it in a large bowl. Grate the zucchini on the smallest holes of a cheese grater into the colander. Toss the zucchini with a pinch of salt and the garlic and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
Squeeze the zucchini to extract all the liquid; you should have about 1 cup of juice. (If you’re getting less, then grate in another zucchini). Set aside both the grated zucchini and the juice.
Parboil the pasta in lightly salted boiling water for half the time suggested on the package, then drain. Bring 3/4 cup of the zucchini juice to a boil in the now empty pasta pot. Toss in the pasta and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until al dente, adding more zucchini juice a little at a time so it absorbs into the pasta and creates a nice glaze.
Now you have a choice on how to finish the dish. You can either toss the pasta with the raw grated zucchini and top with a drizzle of raw olive oil or, if you prefer a caramelized touch, fry the zucchini in a skillet on high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, until crispy, and then toss into the pasta. Serve the pasta topped with grated or shaved cheese.