20-Minute Tagliatelle with Fried Zucchini and Aged Ricotta

Tagliatelle with fried zucchini and ricotta salata
Tagliatelle with fried zucchini and ricotta salata. Danette St. Onge
    20 mins
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This is a traditional and popular pasta recipe from Sicily. It's quick and easy -- but incredibly satisfying -- and it's also proof that zucchini don't need to be coated in tons of batter in order to be fried to delicious perfection.

Ricotta salata is an aged ricotta cheese, a harder, salty cheese that is suitable for grating. If you can't find it, substitute Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Provolone Piccante, or Mizithra cheese.

The dish--start-to-finish--can be ready in just about 20 minutes!

What You'll Need

  • 1 large round zucchini (or 1 large long zucchini)
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh tagliatelle
  • 10 to 12 small fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped, for serving (optional)
  • Freshly grated ricotta salata cheesefor serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

How to Make It

Wash and dry the zucchini and slice it into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Spread the zucchini rounds out on a baking sheet or large cutting board and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let sit for a few minutes to pull out some excess water.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

After about 5 minutes, pat the excess water from the zucchini rounds with a paper towel.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet (enough to cover the bottom of the skillet and have about 1/8 inch of depth) over medium heat until shimmering.

Fry the zucchini pieces, a few at a time so as to not crowd them, until well browned on both sides. (I find that wooden chopsticks -- if you have good chopsticks skills, that is -- are handy for turning and arranging foods that you are frying.) Transfer the fried zucchini to a large paper-towel lined plate to drain any excess oil and set aside. 

When the pasta water reaches a rolling boil, add the tagliatelle and cook until just al dente (remember that fresh pasta does not take as long to cook as dried pasta, generally only 1 to 4 minutes. More pasta cooking tips here.).

Drain the pasta well and divide it between four serving plates. Top each serving with some fried zucchini, a sprinkling of chopped fresh mint, freshly ground black pepper, and freshly grated ricotta salata. You can serve extra grated cheese at the table as well. 

Optional additions and substitutions:

  • Add a light sprinkle of lemon zest on top when serving.
  • Add 1 sliced garlic clove to the frying oil before adding the zucchini, for extra flavor.
  • Add lightly sauteed, halved cherry tomatoes and/or pancetta to the pasta together with the fried zucchini.
  • You can substitute the fresh tagliatelle with dried spaghetti instead, adjusting the cooking time as needed.
  • Use yellow summer squash instead of zucchini.
  • Substitute the ricotta salata with Parmigiano-ReggianoPecorino Romano, Greek Mizithra, or provolone piccante.
  • Substitute the mint with fresh basil leaves.