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Spaghetti with Zucchini Blossoms and Saffron

Spaghetti with Zucchini Blossoms and Saffron
You'll find zucchini blossoms at farmers' markets and in some grocery stores starting in early June and through the middle of the summer. They are best when first picked and fully open, so try to use them the day you buy them. You can prolong their freshness for a day or so by sticking their stems in water and refrigerating them. Gently wash the blossoms in cool water to remove any dirt or little bugs, and pinch off the stamen. Dry the blossoms on paper towels.

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large sweet white onion, such as Vidalia,
     thinly sliced
  • 1 1⁄2 lb. small zucchini, cut into rounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • Generous pinch of saffron threads, toasted
      and ground
  • 3⁄4 cup chicken or vegetable stock, heated
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Leaves from 3 or 4 large fresh thyme sprigs,
      chopped
  • About 12 zucchini blossoms, trimmed and
      halved lengthwise
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or grana
      padano cheese

Directions:

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sliced zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until the vegetables are tender and golden at the edges, 7 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water, add the pasta and cook until al dente, 7 to 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, dissolve the saffron in the hot stock. Add the saffron mixture, the lemon zest and thyme to the fry pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the zucchini blossoms and heat through until wilted, about 1 minute.

Drain the pasta and transfer to a warmed large, shallow bowl. Add the butter and 2 heaping Tbs. of the cheese and toss. Add the sauce and toss gently. Serve immediately. Pass the remaining cheese at the table.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Pasta, by Erica de Mane (Simon & Schuster, 2001).