This farfalle pasta topped with a light zucchini and ham “condimento” is a delicious recipe straight from Italy, courtesy of Carmelita at Cook Italy and is shared with permission.
A half-day cooking class with Carmelita introduced us to the possibilities in Bologna. And by that I mean the fresh possibilities. Before we even began cooking, we worked our way through the local fresh market options, stopping at the butcher, picking up vegetables, and even sampling a cookie from the bakery.
Shopping for ingredients
This wasn’t just show, though. This is how residents of Bologna shop for their food. There’s not a large supermarket in sight. Instead, shoppers choose ingredients from small shops that specialize in specific items at the old market in the Quadrilatero.
The butcher sells meat. The produce vendor sells fresh produce. The pasticceria sells pastries and cakes. Acquiring the ingredients necessary for a meal means several stops along the way for the freshest meal possible.
The products on display are fresh, and in many cases unpackaged, sold loose as customers need them. (But don’t touch the produce!)
Carmelita had favorite vendors that she knew by name, as one would in a community like this. She knew that the products she chose would be high quality.
This is such a different experience from our American supermarket one-stop shopping that it kind of made my head swirl at first. After spending time here, though, I came away feeling sad that I’d have to return to shopping for my food in a sterile environment under fluorescent lights.
Making this farfalle pasta with zucchini and ham
So, that was a bit tangential. Now that you have an idea of the quality of food available to us during our market trip, let’s talk about making this farfalle pasta dish. Below are the instructions Carmelita provided. I’ve simplified them a bit in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
While the recipe does require using a couple of different pans, cooking the zucchini separately from the onion at first, don’t let the recipe overwhelm you. It may LOOK like a lot of steps, but really it’s very easy.
Served over freshly made Italian pasta — farfalle pasta, also known as strichetti — the ingredients for this recipe are so simple and yet the dish was abundantly flavorful. Carmelita stressed the fact that a good pasta dish doesn’t need to be swimming in sauce. A flavorful topping used sparingly allows the fresh pasta to shine.
- 1/2 onion finely diced
- 2 small zucchini diced (pea size)
- 100 grams ham diced (pea size)
- 50 grams butter
- 1 tablespoon parsley flat leaf, chopped
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup reserved water from cooking pasta
- Saute onion with a small knob of butter (a teaspoon or two) over medium heat. Use a pan large enough to eventually hold all of the ingredients. (A large skillet will suffice.) Do not allow the onion to fry; rather, you want it to wilt. Add water by the teaspoonful as necessary to maintain moisture until the onion is thoroughly cooked and no longer crispy.
- While the onion is cooking, bring several cups of salted water to boil in a small saucepan. Add diced zucchini to the water and cook until tender (2 to 3 minutes). Drain, then rinse under cold water. Drain again.
- Stir zucchini into cooked onion, and cook for two more minutes.
- Add diced ham. At this point you may turn off the heat until you're ready to cook the pasta.
- Put half of this condimento in a small pan and warm over low heat.
- Stir cooked pasta into the remaining condimento in the large pan, also over low heat. Add remaining butter and toss to mix.
- Add parmesan cheese and mix.
- Stir in a ladleful (or two) of reserved pasta water.
- Toss a final time with the fresh parsley.
- Serve, offering the remaining zucchini and ham mixture along with freshly grated parmesan cheese so diners can add more to their plate if desired.
Cooking Fresh Pasta
- Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large stock pot. Transfer freshly made farfalle pasta to the boiling water and boil for 1 to 3 minutes. Fresh pasta takes substantially less time to cook than dried pasta.