Every day, millions of us are united in doing the same thing: we take a packet of pasta from the shelf, we tip the shapes into boiling water, we make something to eat. Pasta: a small word for a universe of shapes. Here are just two of them; one served in a soup, the other with sauce that feel fitting for a summer’s day, or night.
Umbricelli con zucchine, pancetta e pecorino – Umbricelli with courgettes, pancetta and pecorino (pictured above)
In parts of Umbria, pici are known as umbricelli. This recipe from Alice Adams Carosi is not only a favourite, it is a neat illustration of how to use the pasta cooking water to help make a sauce, softening and all the time adding starch, which helps everything come together. Pici, bucatini or fettuccine are alternative shapes; also fusilli or any good sauce-catcher. If you prefer, you can, of course, use parmesan, or a mix of pecorino and parmesan.
Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and squashed
150g pancetta, diced
1 small dried red chilli (optional), broken
8 small courgettes, 4 thinly sliced, the rest grated
Salt and black pepper
450g fresh or dried umbricelli or pici, or bucatini or fettuccine
100g pecorino, grated
Over a moderate flame, warm a generous pour of olive oil (it should just cover the base of the pan) in a large, high-sided frying pan, then add the garlic, diced pancetta and chilli, if using. Let the garlic release its flavour and the pancetta colour a little, then adding the sliced and grated courgettes and a pinch of salt.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and stir, in preparation for the pasta. Gently fry the courgettes, taking care not to let them burn – they will take on a brighter colour and nice glossy sheen. At this point add a couple of ladlefuls of water from the cooking pot, to keep the courgettes moist, and let them continue softening and collapsing.
Cook the pasta for three to four minutes. Continue to cook the sauce and, as the pasta is cooking, skim off the cooking water and add it to the courgette sauce – the gluten from the cooking water will help to thicken the sauce a little, which should by now be a good, creamy consistency. Don’t let the sauce dry out, so keep it liquid by adding water from the pasta pot.
Drain the cooked pasta, throw it into the pan with the courgette sauce and toss with half the grated pecorino. Salt and pepper to taste before serving, then finish with more grated pecorino and a drizzle of olive oil.
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Minestra di fagiolini, fagioli, pomodori e farfalline – minestrone with farfalle or farfalline, tomato and two kinds of beans
Adapted from a Calabrian recipe, this is a high-summer soup for when tomatoes are sweet and beans tender. It is a brothy and simple soup that may appear too watery, but isn’t, thanks to full-flavoured ingredients and the enriching addition of grated parmesan, olive oil and optional red chilli flakes. As mentioned, don’t rush this one. Leave it to rest a little so it is warm rather than hot, which gives the flavours time to emerge and the pasta to settle in.
Prep 10 min
Cook 40 min
Salt and black pepper
500g fine green beans, topped and tailed
6 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
400g ripe and sweet cherry tomatoes, diced
1 big handful torn fresh basil
250g cooked white beans
250g farfalle (or farfalline), or other small pasta shape
50g grated parmesan or pecorino
1 pinch red chilli flakes (optional)
Bring a pan of water to a boil, add salt, stir, then drop in the beans, cook for 10 minutes, or until they are just al dente (ie, not crunchy or floppy), and drain.
In a deep frying pan or casserole set over a medium-low heat, warm the olive oil and the garlic, then add the tomatoes, basil and a pinch of salt, and leave to bubble gently for 15 minutes.
Add the green and white beans to the tomatoes, along with a litre of warm water and another pinch of salt, then simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the pasta, raise the heat and boil until the pasta is al dente. You can at this point pour the soup into a tureen or serve it from the pan. Either way, add half the cheese, a few grinds of black pepper or a sprinkling of red chilli flakes, and stir. Serve, passing round the rest of the cheese and a bottle of olive oil, so everyone can swirl a bit on top.
Recipes extracted from An A-Z of Pasta: Stories, Shapes, Sauces, Recipes, by Rachel Roddy, published on 8 July by Fig Tree at £25. To pre-order a copy for £21.75, go to guardianbookshop.com.