Zucchini has always been a favoured vegetable on the Italian table and the cuisine has developed lots of recipes to bake, fry, braise, and roast this vegetable. The mild zucchini is brought alive by the seasonings, the cheese and the sauces in the dish.
This is a lovely dish of lightly fried zucchini fritters that are smothered in a fresh Pomodoro sauce. The zucchini fritters are gooey from the melted cheese and crisp from being flash fried. The fresh barely cooked sauce adds freshness and a pop of flavour to the dish. If you make the spicy version of the sauce with Calabrian chilli flakes, the spice adds a lovely rich heat. I originally thought that these fritters would be boring, but I was pleasantly surprised as to how delicious they are. For this recipe, choose small baby zucchini for its sweetness and soft bite. Also grate the zucchini along their entire length so that you get long noodles.
Marcella Hazan is considered by many to be the doyen of Italian food and is credited with bringing traditional Italian cuisine to the US. She has published numerous cookbooks and I have quite a few of them. I have no idea how I started collecting her cookbooks, but each and everyone, including this one is a gem. Her amazing story of becoming one of the best-loved Italian chefs in America is detailed in a New Yorker article here. This volume is loaded with non-fussy traditional recipes that stay true to the core of light Italian cooking the dishes transport you back to Italy. This book is a compendium of classic recipes, one that belongs on every chef's kitchen counter and needs to be pulled out to curb that craving for great and healthy Italian cuisine.
For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.
For the zucchini fritters:
1 lb baby zucchini, grated coarsely
3 tablespoons parsley
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
1/2cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Salt, to taste
2 small eggs, whipped
3 tablespoons oil
For the Pomodoro sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely minced
1/2 lb tomatoes, finely minced
salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Calabrian chilli powder, or chilli flakes (not powder)
Parsley, minced, to garnish
To make the zucchini fritters:
Mix all the ingredients for the fritters, except the eggs and salt and set aside. When ready to fry the fritters, add the salt and eggs and mix in well. After adding the salt you need to work fast so that the zucchini does not give out too much water.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium-low heat. Make a small teaspoon-sized fritter and fry till browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. taste and adjust salt and pepper, the pepper should add a subtle spice to the fritter.
Make small fritters, about 2 inches in width and 1/4 inch tall and fry for 3 minutes on each side till they are well browned and set in the middle. Do not overcrowd the frying pan, make about 3-4 fritters in a batch. Set on paper towels to drain when cooked. The fritter can be made ahead of time, but they are best served right off the pan when the outsides are still crisp.
To make the Pomodoro sauce:
Heat the butter in a large, wide pan, where the tomatoes can spread out evenly and cook on a large surface. Add the onions and cook on medium heat for 1 minute. Turn down the heat to low and cook covered for 3 minutes till the onions are lightly golden, do not allow them to pick up any colour.
Add the chillies, if using, and mix in cooking for 20 seconds. Add the tomatoes and turn up the heat to medium. Cook stirring frequently for 6-8 minutes till the tomatoes are cooked but still retain their shape. Add the salt and pepper and taste, the sweetness of the tomatoes should be balanced by the pepper and salt. Set aside to cool. This is a light fresh sauce and one that is just cooked, not the traditional rich sauce that you usually see.
To serve: heat the Pomodoro sauce and layer as a strip on a wide shallow bowl. Heat the fritters on a frying pan till crisp again and layer on the sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.