"To me, eating well is not just about what tastes good but about the connections that are made through the food itself." - Stanley Tucci
After our first attempt at recreating recipes from books we loved didn't exactly go as planned, we thought we would make sure to pay a little more attention to detail this go round. For starters, we actually read through the whole recipe when choosing which one we'd like to make. While there were a few that seemed relatively simple (based on ingredients), we narrowed it down to two after reading through the whole recipe. Then, thinking about how we were meeting up after work to make this, and not wanting to have a midnight dinner, we decided Spaghetti con Zucchine alla Nerano would be the best bet. I mean, the recipe calls for only three main ingredients, what could go wrong?!
If you don't like zucchini, then this recipe is not for you. The recipe calls for 8 to 10 small zucchini. We bought 8 and started slicing away. The main thing you do in this recipe is to fry the zucchini in vegetable or sunflower oil. If this is something that you'd think wouldn't take that long, well you're wrong. When you're frying up tiny slices of at least 4 zucchini it takes FOREVER. We each took turns standing over the zucchini and flipping them as they cooked. The other would take pictures, check the chicken (something we added to fill this meal out a little more), or work on some other part of the dinner (adding salt and freshly chopped basil to the zucchini as it was being taken out of the pan). We were going on a full hour and had only cooked about 3 of the 4 zucchini that we had sliced! At that point, we were like, "Uhhh. I think this is plenty of zucchini if we would like to eat soon". We were wrong, but more on that later.
While frying up the fourth (and final) zucchini, we started to boil the water for the pasta. After draining the zucchini, the recipe says to add the zucchini to a bowl and add olive oil, then put them back in a pan to mix in the pasta and saved pasta water. We didn't do this because we felt it was just dirtying another dish. Instead, we left the zucchini draining on the plate and then added all of the zucchini back to the pot we had fried it in (we did drain the oil from the pot before adding the zucchini back in) and drizzled olive oil over it. We then added the pasta directly into the pan and began folding the pasta into the zucchini mixture.
As you do this, you're supposed to add in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3 cups of it!) and a little bit of the pasta water to create a creamy sauce. This did not happen for us and we still are not sure why not or how we could have done it wrong. The cheese clumped together and the pasta water didn't mix well with the cheese, but at the same time was disappearing in the pot and the zucchini disappeared into the noodles (we didn't make all 8 of the zucchini, but we did make all of the noodles - so bad proportions). We finally got to a point that the cheese was no longer melting and the water was starting to pool at the bottom of the pot. So we decided to call it and let the guys know dinner was ready!
Everyone loaded up their plates with the pasta, chicken, and breadsticks (another addition to the recipe from yours truly). We were all starving considering we thought this would be a quick recipe that instead took over an hour to make, so we quickly dug in. Three out of the four people eating the dish weren't impressed.
The zucchini was definitely the star of the show. It was delicious, even before adding in the cheese (of course we taste-tested while cooking). However, it will never be a dish we serve for multiple people again. It took way too long to cook 4 zucchini! And if you cut the zucchini any thicker, it would take even longer to cook and turn golden. While we already mentioned that the proportions of zucchini to pasta were off because we were tired of cooking zucchini, we're not sure how much the additional zucchini would have changed our opinion of the meal. The pasta was good, but the clumpy cheese was hard to get past and also made it hard to get a forkful of the pasta!
Finally, there was definitely something just missing from the dish flavor-wise. If we made this recipe again, we would definitely be adding minced garlic and some herbs in addition to the fresh basil to liven this recipe up, such as fresh parsley, maybe a little crushed red pepper and some black pepper. Additionally, we were not the biggest fans of the cheese choice. While Parmigiano-Reggiano is very good cheese, it gave the dish a flavor that we just could not appreciate. Maybe it's just our tastebuds, but it was just too sharp of a cheese flavor that we felt like it took away from the flavor and taste of the zucchini! If we make this recipe again, we think we would like to try fresh mozzarella or even a Parmesan Romano mix. Overall, we each rated the dish a 3 out of 5. It was good enough to eat that night, but not something worth the effort again without some definite changes made to it. We both think that the zucchini may just end up as a side dish in future meals!
If you take anything away from this experience, we recommend frying up some thin sliced zucchini and sprinkle a little salt and fresh basil over top! While the recipe was not a winner in our book, we always enjoy getting to spend time together and making memories - especially when it involves food and books!!
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