I’m somewhat annoyed I didn’t come up with this recipe on my own. It was my husband’s Aunt, the kitchen wizard that she is, who brought this dish to the table, delighting our eyes and surprising our palates. We are staying at Emilio’s family’s summer home in Liguria along with most of his extended family, which means that there are at least 20 of us sitting around the long outdoor table overlooking the sea in the evenings, impatiently awaiting another meal. You may think that cooking lunch and dinner for a small army every day would diminish the quality and creativity of the dishes, but Emilio’s aunts and mother tirelessly churn out industrial quantities of delicious pastas, risottos, chicken, fish, meat, and salads. By the time we “children” stumble down the stairs in the morning, the kitchen is already brimming with the smells and sounds of the meals to come. We squeeze the espresso pot onto the stovetop between oversized pots of bubbling sauces and simmering meats, and then get out of the way as quickly as possible.
This pasta recipe is the most memorable of the summer so far, though I must admit I was skeptical at first. Where I’m from, avocado is something you put in tacos or salads, I never dreamed of dressing pasta with it. How wrong I was! The result is a creamy, well-balanced dish, perfect for summer evenings with a few friends, or twenty family members.
Spaghetti with Avocado, Zucchini and Saffron
- 2 small zucchini, sliced into batons
- 1 large avocado (or 2 small ones)
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- juice from half a lemon
- 1 package of saffron
- 14 oz / 400 g spaghetti
- basil leaves, for garnish
- salt and pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute the zucchini batons until tender. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, peel the avocado and remove the seed, then blend in a food processor with the cayenne pepper and the lemon juice. In a small bowl, dissolve the saffron in a couple tablespoons of boiling pasta water, then add to the avocado mixture.
Drain the spaghetti when cooked al dente, reserving a few tablespoons of the pasta water. Dress the pasta with the avocado mixture, adding a spoonful of the reserved water if the sauce is too sticky or dry. Garnish with the zucchini batons and a few basil leaves and serve immediately.