It's a Zucchini in There

Although I am a fan of pasta, I generally don't eat it as much as my parents might fear. I actually can't even remember when was the last time I made it, and there's a forlorn box of fetticine in my cupboard that I think I bought in August. I like pasta for its simplicity and ease, and the fact that it can complement almost any dish. You buy a box (or make it yourself), drop it in some water, and enjoy. On a late night when I'm tired and hungry and uninterested in being a fake-chef, I cook up some angel hair, add a little butter, and I am as happy as the clams I would be too lazy to add to my meal.

But, as nice as pasta is, even I can admit it's a little boring. It's not pasta's fault. It's a solid staple of dining, loyal and dependable, and that's a good thing, but every once in a while I long for food with more rich complexity than flour and eggs. So, a few years ago, I was intrigued by Mark Bittman's suggestion that pasta dishes should be less about the pasta and more about the toppings. Specifically, the toppings should be less about sauces and more about actual vegetables. Cue: zucchini pasta.

Bittman's zucchini pasta creation has the pasta as just one part of an equal mix of squash and veggies. It's a nice take on healthy-ing up dinners, without just completely eliminating the pasta. My parents adapted the recipe by adding shrimp and cutting out the tomatoes; the result is a lovely mix of flavors--crisp zucchini, smooth pasta, fresh shrimp. Bittman's recipe yields a slightly liquid tomato-based sauce, but my parents' version is a little dryer, cooked in a pan without added liquid.

Salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 or 6 medium zucchini, rinsed, trimmed and cut into ribbons or coins
1/2 pound cut pasta, like ziti or penne
1-2 pounds shrimp
Freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add zucchini, cooking until golden brown.
Add salt and pepper.
Add shrimp.
Cook for about 20 minutes, or until very tender.
Cook pasta until it is nearly but not quite tender.
Drain pasta and finish cooking it in pan.
Serve, garnished with Parmesan.

Image from Bitten

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