Light and Hearty: Cooking in My New Kitchen

zucchini ribbons with meat ragu

First of all, I must apologize for being missing in action here for the past few weeks.  And what a time of year to be out of commission in the kitchen!  All of the fruits and vegetables exploding from the farmers market have had me salivating!

But we’ve been in the midst of unpacking boxes, and only this week did I rediscover my treasure trove of pots and pans.  After a few months of hopping from sublet apartment to generous relative and back again, we have finally moved into our house.  I love saying that – my house.  Having been a happy renter for many years, the idea of mowing the lawn and painting the walls is a bit daunting, but still exciting.

I will admit that this homeowner stuff is hard work!  Not only have we been unpacking, but there are hedges to trim, decks to finish, fences to mend, curtains to hang, basements to clean… the list goes on.  I’m getting to know my new kitchen and loving that I can see my garden from the window over the sink. I’m learning that the floorboards in front of the oven creak loudly and predictably, and that there is a little sparrow that likes to sit on the windowsill. I’ve only made a handful of meals here so far, but there will be many more to come.

This Zucchini Pappardelle With Hearty Meat Ragu is one of the first dishes I made in our new home.  I actually made it a couple weeks ago at Jeff’s parents house, and then again here.  It has been so hot outside, that I’m craving light, summery fare.  But a wimpy salad is no match for the efforts of unpacking.  We’ve needed hearty fare to help us push through the mountains of boxes and endless to-do lists.  Hearty and light is a tough combination, but this riff on pasta fits the bill.  The thin strands of delicate zucchini provide subtle crunch and bite, while the ragu offers richness and depth. Under the hot ragu, the zucchini ribbons wilt just enough to twirl nicely around your fork, and hold on to the meaty bits of sauce.

This time of year, I tend to toss a bit of zucchini in just about anything.  It tops a salad, joins a stir-fry, adds heft to a muffin, fills in a kebab, but rarely is zucchini the star.  I love that this is a dish all about beautiful, fresh zucchini.  If the ribbons here put you off, please don’t let them scare you.  It takes almost no time at all to peel the zucchini into strips, I promise.  Much less time, in fact, that bringing a pot of water to a boil for making pasta.  Just be sure you have a good peeler, and stop peeling when you get to the seeds in the middle.  No need to waste the middle, though.  Feel free to use it however you like – I added it to a vegetable stock for some extra zucchini flavor. 

And as for the ragu, the recipe I’ve included is very fluid.  You can add a splash of cream at the end for a richer version, or toss in some extra veggies, if you like.  Omit the pancetta, if you prefer, or add in some chopped sun-dried tomato for extra depth of flavor.  You get the idea.  I usually make a full batch (much more than you need for the zucchini) and freeze half.  In fact, this meal was a gift from the freezer, brought with us to the new house.  You didn’t think I spent time stirring over a hot stove when there are boxes to unpack, did you?  The link below takes you to my favorite Hearty Meat Ragu recipe, which I shared with you all about a year and a half ago.  But if you have some meat sauce on hand, use what you’ve got!  And in a pinch, a bit of jarred tomato sauce never hurt anyone.

zucchini pappardelle

Zucchini Pappardelle With Hearty Meat Ragu

Serves 4-6

8 medium zucchini

4 cups Hearty Meat Ragu (or your favorite meat sauce)

1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini into long, thin strips about an inch wide. Stop when you get to the seeds – do not include the seeds, discard them or save them for another use.  Warm the ragu.  In a large bowl off the heat, gently toss the zucchini with the warm ragu. Serve right away topped with the parmesan cheese.

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Published in: on July 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm  Comments (24)  
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