Zucchini “Pappardelle” with Ricotta & Pesto Arrabbiata
I love the fresh veggies and herbs that summer brings. I had a bounty of zucchini and wanted a different way to incorporate it. I usually prefer the smaller to medium sizes, as I think the flavor and texture is better. Looking at the ones I had I thought they were too small for the spiralizer. I initially thought about making a layered pasta dish like a lasagna, but wanted more texture from the zucchini, so that’s when I hatched the idea to make it into “pappardelle.” Is it as good as the real thing?? Heck no! Nothing beats fresh pasta. But this dinner felt decadent with the rich fresh ricotta, bright fragrant tangy pesto, and spicy sauce. As an added bonus, it kept my carb intake down, so I could save for a later indulgence. I’m mostly low carb. My guys aren’t, so I often make low carb items they will like or have quick and easy substitutions. For this dinner, the kiddo at home with us now isn’t a fan of zucchini. He whipped up some penne pasta as his substitute, so I recommend something like that for those that have a finicky eater to accommodate too.
For the ricotta*:
- 946 ml (4 cups) whole milk
- 473 ml (2 cups) heavy cream
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) kosher salt
- 45 ml (3 tablespoons) good quality white wine vinegar
For the pesto:
- About 473 ml (2 cups) packed fresh basil leaves, plus extra to chiffonade for garnish
- 59-78 ml (1/4-1/3 cup) toasted pine nuts (or substitute toasted pecans or walnuts)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
- 118 ml (½ cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- 78-118 ml (1/3-1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the arrabbiata sauce and "pappardelle":
- Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
- 340 grams (12 ounces) Italian sausage (medium or spicy)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 5-15 ml (2-3 teaspoons) red pepper flakes
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, grated*** or minced
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) tomato paste
- 946 ml (32 ounces) canned whole tomatoes
- 2 small to medium zucchinis thinly sliced lengthwise*
- Salt and pepper, to taste
*Adapted from Ina Garten
** The thin slicing needed here is best done on a mandolin. Alternatively, you may be able to use a sharp vegetable peeler or cheese slicer. A sharp knife and a steady hand will also work.
***Editor’s note: The author recommends using a microplane grater. Alternatively, the garlic may be minced or pressed through a garlic press.
- For the ricotta: Set a fine-mesh sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen two pieces of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with a double layer of the cheesecloth.
2. Pour the milk and cream into a medium stainless-steel or enameled pot, and stir in the salt. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and pour in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for one minute, until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
3. Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 minutes (for soft ricotta) to 25 minutes (for firmer ricotta), occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining liquid. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep, refrigerated, for 4 to 5 days.
4. For the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon, and a small drizzle of olive oil. Pulse the food processor several times. Scrape the sides down. Add drizzles of olive oil and pulse several times. Scrape down the sides again. Continue this process until the pesto is the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. For the arrabbiata sauce and “pappardelle”: In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil and brown the Italian sausage with around a quarter of the chopped onion. When it’s done remove it and set aside, leaving some of the drippings in the pan. Add the remaining onions to the pan, with the crushed red pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook over medium heat until the onions begin to soften and become translucent. Add the grated garlic, stir, and cook for another minute or two. Add the tomato paste, reduce heat to medium low, and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stirring to break them up. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cooked sausage and onions, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Remove from heat and set aside to keep warm.
6. In a clean skillet heat a drizzle of olive oil. Add the zucchini slices and a little salt and pepper. Sauté for a couple minutes on medium until the zucchini slices start to slightly soften. Add a little sauce to the pan and to coat the zucchini.
7. To assemble and serve, layer the zucchini “pappardelle” on plates or a platter , then ladle the arrabbiata sauce on top. Top with fresh ricotta and pesto, and garnish with a chiffonade of basil.