The funny thing about a food blog, especially one that has been around for a long time, is that it doesn’t really reflect the frequency with which each featured dish is cooked: if you look at an archived post from years ago, how do you know whether it was just a one-time experiment, or if it has made weekly appearances at the author’s table since then?
After a recipe has been given the spotlight once, most bloggers are reluctant to write about it again, lest their readers think — assuming they keep track, which is fairly unlikely in these overstimulated times — they are rehashing old ideas. But then, aren’t you most interested in those ideas special enough to sustain the cook’s appetite time and time again? I certainly am.
Every once in a while, I make a personal classic that gets me as excited as it did the first time, and I think, “This is just too good not to remind the world about it.”
I find that a microblogging tool such as twitter helps with that conundrum, allowing me to note, for those who care, that I am making very ginger cookies again, or gratin dauphinois or poppy seed cake.
But then, every once in a while, I make a personal classic that gets me as excited as it did the first time, and I think, “This is just too good not to remind the world about it.”
This explains today’s post, which is another take on this one, first published five years and eight days ago. In the intervening time, I have gone through innumerable packages of fregola sarda, that toasted Sardinian pasta that is considerably tastier than its humble looks might suggest, is impossible to find in Paris (it would be too easy), and therefore requires trips abroad and favors from friends for me to replenish my stash.
I have tried eating fregola sarda in other ways than this, and though I must say it works splendidly with fresh peas, nothing quite compares to the chemistry between the teeny, lightly chewy pasta, soft wedges of zucchini, and coarsely grated parmesan.
I make it a bit differently now, blanching the zucchini quickly in the pasta water instead of sautéing it separately, and I frequently omit the pine nuts, to skip the toasting step. But if there are cherry tomatoes in the red star-shaped bowl on the counter I’ll add them in, and if I have little bits of meat scraped from a roast chicken carcass, as I did the day I took the above picture, they round out the dish nicely, too.
All in all, it is a one-pot dish that takes no longer to prepare than the time needed to boil the pasta — though fregola sarda is a little longer to cook than most, I’ll grant you that — and it is still, after all these years, my go-to meal when I’m having dinner on my own. It is just as good hot, barely warm, or cold, which means I can prepare a double serving, eat half on the spot, and have the leftovers for lunch the next day.
On the subject of pasta, I have just struck a good deal on a pasta-making apparatus, and I am anxious to it try soon, probably using the ratio laid out by Michael Ruhlman in his book (three parts flour to two parts egg). Any handmade pasta advice to share, or favorite recipes of your own?
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- 170 grams (6 ounces) fregola sarda, or other small pasta, such as gnocchetti sardi (a.k.a. malloreddus) or Israeli couscous
- 2 medium zucchini, about 280 grams (10 ounces)
- a chunk of good parmesan, or other aged cheese, about 60 grams (2 ounces)
- 2 handfuls cherry tomatoes (optional)
- a handful of pine nuts, toasted (optional)
- olive oil
- sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
- Bring salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat (in my kitchen, it's faster to heat the water in the electric kettle than on the stove). Add the pasta, bring back to a simmer, and cook over medium-high heat for however many minutes the package recommends -- the mileage of your fregola sarda may vary, but mine takes 14 minutes to be al dente. (Note: Israeli couscous will be ready much faster, so you should prep the zucchini and cheese beforehand; see Dawn's suggestion in the comments below.)
- While the water is heating and the pasta is boiling, cut the zucchini in thinnish half-moons and grate the parmesan coarsely (using the largest holes of the grater if there's a choice). Halve the cherry tomatoes.
- Two minutes before the pasta is supposed to be cooked according to the package, add in the zucchini, stir, bring the water back to a simmer, then cook for 2 more minutes. (The addition of the zucchini will make the water temperature drop, so the overall cooking time is slightly more than it would be if you were cooking the pasta alone.)
- Drain and divide between two shallow bowls. Add the cherry tomatoes if using, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper, parmesan, and pine nuts if using. Serve hot or at room temperature, possibly the next day (in which case I add the parmesan after the pasta has cooled).