It happens every year………you plant the garden and then anxiously wait for the first tomatoes to ripen, the beans to grow large enough to pick your first basket, and you wait for that first the zucchini to grow to just the right size. Once you start harvesting however, everything changes quickly, as it all starts to come at once and you find yourself with more zucchini, beans, and tomatoes than you can use.
Luckily my four chickens love grated zucchini, because after cooking zucchini as a side dish day after day, using it in quick breads and muffins, throwing it into soups and salads, and using it in pasta dishes, I still seem to have some leftover.
This is one of my favorite summer pasta dishes using zucchini, pancetta, garlic, hot peppers and some crunchy breadcrumbs on top. This is a pasta dish that comes together in minutes, and if you have everything chopped and prepped you can easily complete this dish in under 30 minutes.
Here in Italy we can buy nifty little packages of diced pancetta, but you can use bacon in it’s place if pancetta is difficult to find. I dice my zucchini into about 1 inch pieces, and cook them just until they are tender crisp because zucchini can get mushy in texture when overcooked.
I used strangozzi pasta in these photos, an Umbrian square cut long pasta, but I also like to use fusilli for this dish as well. For the breadcrumbs, I simply cut leftover crusty bread into cubes and toss it into my food processor with dried oregano, salt, pepper, and some fresh parsley and pulse until I get coarse crumbs.
- 2 Medium Small Zucchini, Ends Trimmed And Cut Into Large Dice
- 1/4 Pound Diced Pancetta
- 1/2 Cup Diced Onion
- 3 Large Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Thinly Sliced
- 1 Red Hot Chili Pepper, Minced
- 1 Pound Spaghetti Or Fusilli Pasta
- Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley or Basil
- 1 Cup Coarse Homemade Breadcrumbs, Seasoned (See Note Above)
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- Grated Pecorino Cheese
- Cracked Black Pepper
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
- Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a small paper-towel-lined plate, leaving about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan.
- Return the skillet to medium heat, add the onion to the pan, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to soften and wilt, about 4 minutes.
- Add the zucchini, stirring, until it just starts to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and chili pepper and cook another minute or two until fragrant.
- Add the pancetta back into the pan with the zucchini and mix, seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil for the topping in a small frying pan and toast the breadcrumbs until they are golden brown.
- Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente.
- Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta well.
- Return the pasta to its pot and add the zucchini mixture, parsley/basil, and 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
- Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat, until the pasta has blended with the sauce, about 1 minute, adding more of the pasta water if the mixture seems dry.
- Serve in individual bowls topped with a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs, and cracked black pepper.
- Offer grated Pecorino cheese at the table.