When I came to Italy and started shopping at the outdoor markets, I saw many vegetables that I’d never eaten before. One of them was zucchini with the flowers attached. I didn’t even know that flowers were edible.
The first time I ate zucchini flowers (fiori di zucca), I was in the countryside near Perugia and my host prepared the flowers in a traditional way, stuffing them with cheese and anchovies and then breading and frying them. The second time I ate them they were made into frittelle (fritters) and again breaded and fried. They were very good each time, but very heavy.
Last week I went produce shopping and I saw mini light colored zucchini with beautiful fresh flowers attached. I love an opportunity to try something new, so I bought ten.
When I got home I went online and looked for zucchini flower recipes. I wanted something lighter so I opted not to stuff or bread them with anything. I found a few recipes for pasta with zucchini flowers and merged the parts I liked the best about them and came up with this dish.
I used whole grain spaghetti, zucchini flowers (I saved the zucchini for later), shallots (instead of onion), peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes), fresh cherry tomatoes, white wine, basil, olive oil, and salt.
It’s a quick recipe and I lightly sauteed the fresh ingredients and made sure to keep the pasta al dente to keep the dish feeling spring-y. There was just a hint of hot pepper which complemented it nicely. I don’t think this is a good dish to make very spicy.
The zucchini flowers have a very mild taste. They definitely don’t dominate the dish. I’m curious if making this without the tomatoes would bring out their flavor more. The tomatoes were nice to have, though, because they kept everything moist.
By the way, since I bought ten zucchini and used seven in the recipe (I was just cooking for myself), the next day I sliced some of the zucchini to make this dish again, only with the actual zucchini this time, and with the three remaining flowers. I cut one flower off of the zucchini and a huge, fat, black slimy slug oozed out onto the cutting board.
I’m so glad I didn’t reach for that particular one yesterday or I might have lost my desire to eat the other flowers.
I just realized that the slug is hiding inside one of those pretty flowers that you can see in the pictures in this post.
Now try to get that image our of your head so we can move onto the recipe!
Ingredients (for two people, multiply as needed):
14 zucchini flowers, sliced in half lengthwise
14 cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves or quarters
6 shallots, chopped (you can use less if you’re not as big of a fan as I am)
A small pinch of peperoncino
Fresh basil leaves
2 servings of whole grain spaghetti
1. Saute the shallots in olive oil with a small pinch of peperoncino (how much depends on how spicy you like it).
2. After a few minutes, add the fresh tomatoes and salt and a little white wine and raise the heat to high.
3. Lower the heat and let everything simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes start to give off juice.
4. Add the flowers and saute until they reach the desired tenderness. Add a small amount of white wine (or water) if it looks like its getting too dry.
5. While you’re doing all that, cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and toss the pasta in the pan with the sauce until evenly coated.
6. Put fresh basil leaves on top and serve immediately.