Penne Giardiniera

"Some years ago the personnel at the Ealing Carluccio's asked me if I could create a vegetarian dish with pasta. I went immediately to the kitchen, where I found enough courgettes and spinach to make a dish, matched them with pennoni (large pasta tubes from Puglia), and this is it. I has been on the Carluccio's menu since then, and each time it is ordered, it collected 50p for charity."

- Antonio Carluccio's Pasta, Quadrille Publishing 2014

700g raw spinach

half a clove of garlic, minced

1 egg, beaten

pinch of nutmeg

45g Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated

70g dry breadcrumbs

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for shallow frying

500g penne pasta

80g butter

2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

20g red chillies, finely chopped

2 medium courgettes, coarsely grated

240g Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated

Boil, but don’t overcook, the spinach in lightly salted water. Press it dry, break open the leaves and tear apart roughly. In a bowl, mix together the torn spinach, garlic, egg, nutmeg and Parmesan. Add about half of the breadcrumbs, to balance the moisture of the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Roll one ball and fry it, to test for consistency and taste. (If the mixture is too wet, the ball will fall apart during cooking, but too much bread content will lessen the spinach flavour.) Add some more breadcrumbs or seasoning if needed. Fry until golden. Set aside.

In abundant salted water, boil the pasta until it’s al dente, perhaps 10-15 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

In a pan, melt the butter and heat the garlic and chillies. Add the grated courgettes and fry for a minute or two. Add the cooked pasta and toss in most of the grated cheese (leave some for serving). Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in a deep plate or shallow bowl with a sprinkle of the spinach balls and the remaining Parmesan.

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