I have many memories from my childhood of my cousins and I getting in trouble from our Nan if we were naughty. She would look at us, bite the side of her hand, and grumble a drawn out ‘mannaggia‘. As I got older, I learnt that I could avoid this by instead diverting the attention to my younger cousins. Being an Italian family, instead of cupboards filled with sweets and biscuits, we had almonds and fresh greengage plums as snacks. I used to love almonds and grab them a handful at a time and put them in my pocket and then hide behind the couch to eat them so as not to get in trouble for snacking before dinner time. When they’d fall on the floor, I’d quickly point the finger at my two youngest cousins “It was them Nan!” Nan would turn to the two little girls, bite her hand and curse ‘mannaggia’. I would sneak away to enjoy the treats in my pockets whilst my cousins would stand there bewildered, unsure of what they had done wrong but – knowing by that one word – that Nan was unhappy with them.
Fast forward a few years to when my mother and I were on holiday in Europe. We had spent a few weeks travelling through Portugal, Spain and France and had finally made our way to Italy. We had struggled a little at times with the language in the previous countries, and were relieved to arrive in a country where one of us (Mum) spoke the mother tongue. We arrived at the train station in Milan and I stayed with our luggage whilst my Italian-speaking mother went to buy our onward ticket. A few moments later she came back, flustered, and empty-handeds “They didnt understand me! They speak a different dialect! You go.” I stood there confused, “but I dont speak any Italian!”
Mum told me the words I needed to use, and I grabbed the money and headed towards the ticket counter repeating in my head ‘due’ (two), ‘biglietti’ (tickets), ‘domani’ (tomorrow). When I finally got to the front of the line, I walked up to the counter and asked the very tired-looking ticket attendant “Do-e. Bigli-etti. Dormani” The ticket attendant looked at me for a moment, and then turning to get the tickets, rolled his eyes and grumbled “mannaggia!‘, before thrusting the tickets on the counter. It was the one Italian word I understood.
I can imagine my Nan looking at this pasta dish and uttering that dreaded word. For a start, there is no actual pasta – instead threads of raw zucchini are used. Heirloom tomatoes give the pesto a fresh tang and lightness, and the pesto uses walnuts for extra depth. But despite these nontraditional aspects, and for something so relatively simple, it comes together beautifully to create a delicious and unique flavour. It may not replace your favorite pasta dish, but it makes a refreshing change.
Zucchini pasta with two-tomato pesto
Adapted from Roost
4 large zucchini, shredded with a spiraliser or vegetable peeler
Three large heirloom tomatoes, flesh only
12 sundried tomatoes in oil
1/2 leaves form one bunch basil, roughly torn
2 Tbsp walnuts
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp Himalayan salt
1/4 Cup olive oil (use that from the tomatoes for extra flavour)
Extra basil leaves and pine nuts to serve
Shred the zucchini with a spiraliser or vegetable peeler.
To make pesto, add all of the ingredients except for the oil into the food processor. Process until combined. With the machine turned on, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.
Stir two thirds of the pesto through the zucchini pasta.
Serve topped with the remaining sauce, basil leaves and pine nuts.