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Zucchini, pancetta and Parmesan combine for a fresh, rich pasta
Milk Street Bowtie Pasta with Zucchini, Pancetta and Saffron

Pasta with Zucchini, Pancetta and Saffron

Appears in May-June 2020

40 minutes

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Pasta with Zucchini, Pancetta and Saffron

Free

This is our version of a fantastic pasta offering from Trattoria Bertozzi in Bologna, Italy. In lieu of guanciale (cured pork jowl), we opted for easier-to-find but equally meaty pancetta, and we lightened up the dish’s richness by swapping half-and-half for the cream. The restaurant uses gramigna pasta, a tubular, curled shape from the Emilio-Romagna region. We found that more widely available cavatappi or gemelli works just as well combining with the zucchini and catching the lightly creamy sauce in its crevices.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t boil the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it has a little more bite than is desirable in the finished dish; the noodles will cook a bit more in the sauce. Also, don’t forget to reserve 2 cups of the cooking water before draining the pasta.

40 minutes

1 pound zucchini
12 ounces short, curly pasta, such as cavatappi or gemelli
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ teaspoon saffron threads
3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium garlic clove, smashed and peeled
½ cup half-and-half
½ ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Ingredients
  • 1

    pound zucchini

  • 12

    ounces short, curly pasta, such as cavatappi or gemelli

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • ½
  • 3

    ounces pancetta, finely chopped

  • 1

    medium garlic clove, smashed and peeled

  • ½

    cup half-and-half

  • ½

    ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Directions
  1. 01
    Halve the zucchini lengthwise, then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Slice each half lengthwise about ¼ inch thick, then cut the strips crosswise into 1-inch sections. In a large pot, boil 4 quarts of water. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain. In a small bowl, combine 1½ cups of the reserved water and the saffron; set aside the remaining ½ cup water.
  2. 02
    While the pasta cooks, in a 12-inch skillet over medium, cook the pancetta and garlic, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has rendered some of its fat and begins to crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic, then stir in the zucchini and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is fully crisped and the zucchini is lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
  3. 03
    Add the pasta and the saffron water to the skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring, until the sauce is lightly thickened and clings to the pasta, about 1 minute. Off heat, taste and season with salt and pepper. If needed, stir in additional reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time to create a lightly creamy sauce. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with Parmesan.
Tip: Don’t boil the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it has a little more bite than is desirable in the finished dish; the noodles will cook a bit more in the sauce. Also, don’t forget to reserve 2 cups of the cooking water before draining the pasta.
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Reviews
Michael N.
August 7, 2022
Such
It was late Sunday and only had zucchini and saffron but got it to work. Used pork belly, chickpea type noodles and Romano cheese. Also used milk and butter instead of half and half. Turned out fine and hope the next time I will use the called for ingredients
Felix P.

Great recipe. Easy to follow and delicious! Cooking time was about 10 minutes longer than prescribed.

Lisa L.

Just made it but didn't have pancetta so I used bacon (quarantine). I threw some cherry tomatoes in at the last minute, it looked a bit drab. Its delicious and I can't wait to make it again with pancetta.

elizabeth g.

Lisa L., We have been having luck getting panchetta from Whole Foods delivered free through Amazon Prime. It is the best panchetta I have ever used.

Trent H.

Wonderful recipe. If it were any easier it'd be takeout. Made it as directed and it turned out perfectly. If you're missing the gemelli, you can use penne and it won't even feel like it's in a pinch!

Jennifer B.

sublime. the secret is in using the pasta cooking water. I forgot to add the cream and didn't miss it. the saffron imparted a lovely color.

Pamela A.

Made this last night for dinner - OMG, so quick, easy and good. Will definitely become a regular on my easy-night cooking. I followed the recipe as is and then decided to add some parmesan cheese to the hot mixture so it would melt in and become part of the overall taste, and also added shavings on top, I liked both with and without the melted parmesan cheese.

Jean D.

Not very flavorful. Too much pasta and too little other ingredients. Would not make again.

Barb M.

Sorry, I usually love everything Milk Street, but this didn’t make it for me - was bland even after adding more cheese, ground pepper and a bit more salt and a shake of crushed pepper.

David E.

Appreciate all the comments, this is an excellent recipe with some adjustments. I doubled the pancetta added two hands full of cherry tomatoes and edamame, dusted it with Italian seasoning and added red pepper flakes. Again this is an excellent recipe

Kalina Z.

Loved this! I used 4 oz of pancetta, a little more zucchini, & used whole milk with butter. My family devoured it & asked for it again.


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Pasta with Zucchini, Pancetta and Saffron

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

40 minutes

Tip

Don’t boil the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it has a little more bite than is desirable in the finished dish; the noodles will cook a bit more in the sauce. Also, don’t forget to reserve 2 cups of the cooking water before draining the pasta.

Ingredients
  • 1

    pound zucchini

  • 12

    ounces short, curly pasta, such as cavatappi or gemelli

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • ½
  • 3

    ounces pancetta, finely chopped

  • 1

    medium garlic clove, smashed and peeled

  • ½

    cup half-and-half

  • ½

    ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Step 1 of 3

Cook Pasta

1
pound zucchini
12
ounces short, curly pasta, such as cavatappi or gemelli
Kosher salt
½
teaspoon saffron threads

Halve the zucchini lengthwise, then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Slice each half lengthwise about ¼ inch thick, then cut the strips crosswise into 1-inch sections. In a large pot, boil 4 quarts of water.


Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain.


In a small bowl, combine 1½ cups of the reserved water and the saffron; set aside the remaining ½ cup water.

Step 2 of 3

Combine Ingredients In Skillet

3
ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1
medium garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1
pound zucchini
Ground black pepper

While the pasta cooks, in a 12-inch skillet over medium, cook the pancetta and garlic, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has rendered some of its fat and begins to crisp, about 3 minutes.


Remove and discard the garlic, then stir in the zucchini and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is fully crisped and the zucchini is lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.

Step 3 of 3

Finish and Serve

½
cup half-and-half
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½
ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Add the pasta and the saffron water to the skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, 4 to 5 minutes.


Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring, until the sauce is lightly thickened and clings to the pasta, about 1 minute.


Off heat, taste and season with salt and pepper. If needed, stir in additional reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time to create a lightly creamy sauce. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with Parmesan.

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