I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Zucchini Pasta Bake with Mint Pesto

A few years ago, on a family trip to Italy, we had an amazing meal prepared by a local chef that included handmade ravioli with a zucchini mint pesto sauce. It was one of the culinary highlights of the trip for me. I asked the chef how it was made, but my lack of Italian and his lack of English didin’t make for very good instructions. I have wanted to recreate that dish since then, but making ravioli by hand is above my patience level, and I never managed to get his pesto version just right. But with tinkering, I eventually managed to get a mint pesto that mimicked the lovely fresh taste I remembered. I toss it here with freshly shredded zucchini – and the real shortcut of pasta made by someone other than me. I nice dose of crème fraiche mimicks the creamy handmade ricotta filling of the original dish, and just ties the whole thing together.

This really is the taste of summer in one dish. Beautiful in season zucchini with a gorgeous garden mint pesto, which I always find artfully displayed at the farmers market. Keep the pesto recipe in your back pocket – it is great stirred into pasta on its own or spooned over grilled chicken or veggies.

Zucchini Pasta Bake with Mint Pesto
Serves 8
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For the Pesto
  1. 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  2. 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  3. zest of one lemon
  4. 4 cups loosely packed mint leaves
  5. 1/3 cup olive oil
For the Pasta Bake
  1. 1 pound tubular pasta like rigatoni
  2. 2 medium zucchini (about 1 ¼ pounds)
  3. 2 (8-ounce) containers crème fraiche
  4. 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  5. ¾ cup plain dry bread crumbs
  6. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  7. salt and pepper to taste
For the Pesto
  1. Put the almonds, garlic, lemon zest and mint leaves in the bowl of a food processor and process until chopped to a rough puree. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until you have a thick paste.
For the Pasta Bake
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water 2 minutes less than the package directions. Dip out about 1 cup of the pasta water in a measuring jug, then drain the pasta a rinse under cool water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Put the grated zucchini in a really large bowl, then add the crème fraiche and the pesto and generous pinches of salt and stir to combine. When the pasta has cooled, stir it into the zucchini. (If you don’t have a huge bowl, you can scrape everything into the pot you cooked the pasta in). Stir to coat the pasta with the creamy mixture. Drizzle in ¼ to ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to create a lighter sauce that coats the pasta.
  3. Scrape the pasta into a greased 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the Parmegiano-Reggiano evenly over the top. Mix the breadcrumbs and the olive oil together in a small bowl. I start with a for, then use my fingers to rub them together until I have a mixture like wet sand. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top of the pasta.
  4. The dish can be cooled covered and refrigerated overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Bake until heated through and bubbling, about 30 minutes.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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