Marie presented me with the last of her back-yard zucchini, a rather giant specimen that landed in my fridge with a loud thud. A few days later, looking for a quick dinner that would also satisfy a pasta craving, I retrieved the zucchini and started slicing it really thin. I love sautéed zucchini, cooked in olive oil at medium heat for a long time, until they are nearly charred and breaking apart. Just by themselves, added to pasta with more olive oil and red pepper, would be enough.
But there was the last fruit of my tomato plant, which I added at the last moment, and cooked until they started to release their juices. Salt and pepper and strips of basil completed the dish, while pappardelle where boiling nearby on the stove.
And then I became ambitious. Spotting some ricotta I had bought to eat with the last of the peaches, I added some to the pasta. What could have been a great dish became just ok. I should know better than using store-bought ricotta which, heated, just becomes a thick paste – my pasta now required profuse gulps of olive oil so it wouldn’t stick together. Lesson learned. Keep it simple when what you start with is good to begin with.
Now, had I used home-made ricotta, it would have been a different story altogether. The granules of the cheese would have separated, adding a pleasant, milky taste to the final dish. In its absence, I should have sticked with a sprinkle of the Parmesan my mother gave me and called it a day.