Slowly eating England: Courgette, lemon and feta pasta

To be honest, I’ve never been that wild about courgettes. Yet this year I find I have a growing crush. It seems I’m not alone: the current trend for turning courgettes into pasta-like “courgetti” by putting them through a spiraliser, has sent sales of what our American cousins call “zucchini”—which I always think sounds so much more appealing—soaring.

Me, I’d rather have regular spaghetti with my ragu, but each to their own. And anyway, there are myriad other uses for this most prolific of vegetables; which is handy because they are growing like topsy in the garden. This ability to flourish is both a blessing and a curse. Plant them and you’re pretty much guaranteed success. But you can easily end up with more than you can eat, in which case I suggest you try this River Cottage recipe for piccalilli—perfect with cheese, cold meats or a pork pie. I do love a pork pie.

I haven’t reached the glut stage yet, and am still finding ways to use my harvest. I’ve been simply paring them into thin strips and adding to salad, or frying them briefly and dressing with lemon juice, olive oil, a scattering of toasted pine nuts and shavings of parmesan to serve alongside fish or chicken. One recent chilly Sunday, I roasted them with aubergine and peppers as a cheat’s ratatouille to go with the roast beef. Sadly, the blackfly have got to the flowers before me (note to self: be more vigilant), but if you’re lucky enough to have some of these glorious things try filling them with ricotta and deep-frying to make a decadent and impressive starter.

I had intended to mix the last of the crop with feta to make fritters. But after a weekend of rich food, I felt that only a bowl of the simplest pasta spiked with chili would do, so took the same ingredients but tossed them with linguine. A dish to be enjoyed on your own—preferably straight from the pan.

Recipe: Courgette, lemon and feta pasta

courgette pasta100g dried spaghetti or linguine
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 small courgettes, sliced thinly
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 large handful of spinach
A sprinkling of chili flakes (to taste)
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp grated parmesan
50g feta cheese
Zest and juice of ½ lemon

This simple supper is ready in minutes and can be tweaked according to your taste and store cupboard. I add chili because I love it, and rosemary because I have it growing rampant in the garden, but you could use sage or marjoram. I also lobbed in a handful of spinach as it was lurking in the fridge, but adding kale or rocket would work well too; kale should be added at the same time as the garlic, while rocket should be left to the very last minute.

First cook your pasta according to packet instructions in plenty of boiling, salted water. When it’s just al dente, drain, drizzle with a little oil to stop it sticking together, and set aside.

In a shallow pan, make your sauce. Warm the olive oil to a medium heat and sauté the courgette for a couple of minutes. You want it wilting not crunchy. Add the garlic, herbs and chili. Cook for a couple more minutes, then throw in the spinach, if using.

Now add the cooked pasta to the sauce to warm through. Crumble over the feta, lemon zest and most of the parmesan, and mix thoroughly. Check for seasoning (remembering that the feta is pretty salty) and add a good squeeze of lemon juice—I don’t think there are many things that aren’t improved by a squeeze of lemon at the end. Serve with more parmesan and a hefty grinding of black pepper.

Serves 1, generously.