Fusilli con le Zucchine a Scapece

Fusilli with Vinegar Marinated Zucchini

Looking into the origin of a dish is sometimes like looking into a telescope that contracts history rather than distance. The zucchini used here as sauce for fusilli are known as a scapece, an Italianization of the Spanish escabeche. It is a manner of pickling vegetables or small fish by first frying them in olive oil, then steeping them in vinegar and mint. Although the word comes from the Spanish, the dish comes from the ancient Romans and, before them, probably from the Greeks. The Spaniards found it when they became lords of Southern Italy, gave it a name of their own, which in turn was transformed and absorbed by the local dialect. Zucchini, carrots, or eggplant prepared this way can be put up in jars and served up to a month later as appetizers or condiments. To make zucchini a scapece one would usually slice them into rounds, but in the sauce they work better cut into julienne strips that curl around the whorls of the fusilli.

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Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fresh, glossy zucchini
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic chopped very fine
  • 10 to 15 fresh mint leaves, torn by hand into small bits
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • 1 pound fusilli

Method

  1. Soak the zucchini in a basin of cold water for at least 20 minutes, then scrub them vigorously under cold running water with a rough cloth or stiff brush to remove all embedded grit. Trim away the ends and cut the zucchini into sticks about 2 inches long and ¼ inch thick.
  2. Set a large colander over a bowl or basin and place the zucchini in the colander. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of salt, turn them 2 or 3 times, and allow them to sit for at least 45 minutes to drain them of as much liquid as possible.
  3. If you have a deep-fat fryer, pour enough vegetable oil in to rise 4 inches up the side of the pan. If you are using a shallow frying pan, the oil should be inches deep, if possible. Turn on the heat to medium high.
  4. When you are ready to begin frying, remove the zucchini sticks from the colander and blot them thoroughly dry in kitchen towels. As soon as the oil is hot, drop them into the pan, as many as will fit without being crowded. The moment they become colored a light brown, transfer them directly to the bowl where you will later toss the pasta.
  5. When you have finished frying the zucchini sticks and put them all in the bowl, pour the vinegar over them and turn them once or twice. Add the garlic, mint, olive oil, a few grindings of pepper, taste and correct for salt, and mix well.
  6. Cook the pasta in a pot of abundant boiling salted water until it is barely tender but firm to the bite. Drain, toss immediately with the zucchini, and serve. No cheese is required or desirable with this dish.

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