My grandmother, back in the 70s was a "health guru"; she would drink lemon juice in the morning, have lots of brown rice and lentils, make her own pasta, bread and pizza in her stone oven.
It was interesting to see how she would experiment with different herbs in the kitchen, she used to love foraging, growing her own corn and wheat, mill it in the attic and use it to make her own polenta and bakings.
She was a strong and tough woman who lived in the middle of the Friulan countryside and this way of living and feeding herself was simply second nature to her. Her cooking was typical of the "cucina povera" with very few good quality ingredients and always healthy.
All through my childhood I had plenty to be inspired by and now here I am talking and writing about food every single day.. it is simply running through my genes.
There are several vegetables which can make a fabulous healthy pasta sauce: cavolo nero, arugola and sundried tomatoes just to mention a few.
A must-try one is certainly zucchini pesto which is the recipe I am sharing today. I have added almonds, a few basil leaves and Grana Padano cheese which gives this pesto a satisfying and delicate taste. I have dressed my pasta with the pesto and then I have finished it off with crunchy Prosciutto di San Daniele strips on top which will simply make you scream for more.
Since 1996 Grana Padano and Prosciutto di San Daniele have been recognised by the European Union as Protected Designation of Origin and they carry the PDO logo which guarantees high quality, authenticity and traceability. Prosciutto di San Daniele carries a series of codes and marks on its rind to allow complete traceability, including its origin and it is completely natural: only sea salt is used to preserve it.
Grana Padano was invented by the Benedictine monks as a clever way of preserving surplus milk. Its reputation was established over time and it soon became a highly esteemed prize ingredient at Renaissance banquets held by princes and dukes.
The traditional methods of producing Grana Padano Cheese are still the same today as they were hundreds of years ago to make sure that the product continues to display today the characteristics of flavour, aroma and texture, as well as appearance.
My pediatrician has recommended Grana Padano for my children as it has double the calcium content than ordinary cheese, so if you are low in calcium or you don't like drinking milk this will be a good source of it for you.
But let's have a look at the recipe now. This pesto serves 4 people.
- Prep Time : 20 minutes
- Cook Time : 10 minutes
- Yield : 4
- zucchini (courgettes) - 2 medium
- blanched almonds - handful
- Grana Padano - 30 g - 1/3 cup + a few shavings to serve
- Prosciutto di San Daniele - 80 g - 1/2 cup
- garlic clove - 1
- olive oil - 30 ml - 1 fluid oz + extra to cook the prosciutto
- fresh basil leaves - handful
- dried pasta - 350 g - 3 + 1/2 cup
Wash the zucchini, trim both ends, chop them into pieces and put them in a processor. Add the garlic clove, Grana Padano, almonds, a pinch of salt and 6 basil leaves.
Whiz adding the olive oil a little at a time. Reduce the mixture into a puree consistency.
Cut the Prosciutto di San Daniele into strips. Add a dash of olive oil in a pan and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes until crispy.
Cook the pasta in salty boiling water according to packet instructions and when you drain it retain just a little bit of the cooking water. This will help in making the pasta moist and easier to mix it up with the pesto.
Stir the pasta with the pesto, plate it up, add a few crunchy Prosciutto di San Daniele strips on top, some Grana Padano shavings and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
This pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to a week covered with olive oil and cling film.
This post is in collaboration with the Consortiums of Grana Padano and Prosciutto di San Daniele