FUSILLI WITH FRIED ZUCCHINI, GARLIC AND BASIL (for four)
1-1/2 pounds fresh, young zucchini
10 to 12 fresh basil leaves
½ cup all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional cheese at the table
1 pound fusilli
- Soak the zucchini for at least 20 minutes in cold water, then wash it free of all grit. Drain it, trim away both ends, and cut the zucchini into sticks about 2-1/2 inches long and no more than ¼ inch thick.
- Put the zucchini in a free standing pasta colander set over a large bowl to distribute the salt and sprinkle liberally with salt. Toss the zucchini 2 or 3 times to distribute the salt evenly, and let stand for at least 2 hours. Check the bowl occasionally, and if the liquid that collects in it comes up high enough to reach the zucchini, empty the bowl.
- When 2 or more hours have elapsed, remove the zucchini and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Rinse and dry the colander, which you will need again.
- Rinse the basil in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and tear leaves by hand into smaller pieces. Set aside.
- When you are ready to fry, set the colander over a platter and put the zucchini back into it. Dust the zucchini with the flour, shaking the colander to coat them evenly and to shed excess flour.
- Put enough vegetable oil in a frying pan to come ¼ to ½ inch up its sides. Add the garlic and turn the heat on to high. When the oil is quite hot, put in as many zucchini sticks at one time as will fit loosely in the pan. Check the garlic and as soon as it begins to brown, remove it and discard it. Turn the zucchini sticks, cooking them until they become colored a golden brown all over, then transfer them to a cooling rack to drain or to a platter lined with paper towels. Continue adding zucchini to the pan in as many batches as necessary until it is all done a golden brown. (The sauce may be prepared several hours in advance up to this point, but do not refrigerate the zucchini.)
- Drop the pasta into a pot of abundant boiling salted water. Cook until tender but firm to the bite (about 10 minutes for Barilla. If you are using another brand of dried pasta, follow instructions on box) When the pasta is nearly ready to be drained, melt the butter in the upper part of a double boiler and keep it warm. If you are using soft, freshly made pasta, melt the butter before dropping the pasta in the pot.
- Toss cooked drained pasta with the warm melted butter, add the fried zucchini, the basil and the grated cheese, and toss thoroughly again. Serve at once with additional grated Parmesan on the side.