When squash blossoms first come out in late spring, I go crazy with the hot oil. I fry them plain; I stuff and fry them; I even shred them, coat them in light batter, and fry them like chips. A couple weeks later, I come to my senses. There’s only so much fried food one person should eat, and I probably exceed my quota with squash blossoms alone. But then I stop buying blossoms altogether, unsure of what else I can do with them.
Last Sunday, the baskets of blossoms at Dupont were overflowing and not too expensive, so I picked up a couple, resolving to find a non-fry recipe in short order. Here’s a sentence I could write about so many things: Molly Wizenberg came to the rescue.
Do you read Orangette? You really ought to. Molly is a beautiful writer, and she always seems to cook things I want to make and eat immediately. In this case, it was her reader who supplied the recipe, for a fresh pasta that tastes at once like noodle soup and like a late summer afternoon in Italy. The pasta starts like a winter braise: celery, onion, carrot, broth.
From there, though, it turns straight to summer, with a generous handful of fresh squash blossoms. The blossoms swim in the broth, mingle with the mirepoix, and eventually melt into the sauce. While their texture isn’t prominent in the final dish, their delicacy and flavor lend a richness that, along with tempered egg yolk, make the pasta as creamy as a good carbonara. Only for all its creaminess, the dish is still light and clean.
With tomatoes at their peak, it’s hard to believe this pasta is the best one I’ve had all month. No doubt, there’s plenty of spaghetti pomodoro in my near future — not to mention the raw tomato sauce of which I’ve grown so fond. But there’s also this. In it’s own right, it nears perfection. Thanks to Molly and her reader, Tony, for sharing this very worthy use for squash blossoms, no frying included.
Pappardelle with Squash Blossoms
Adapted, just barely, from Molly Wizenberg
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium (or half a large) red onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
12 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise (no need to remove stem)
2 cups very good chicken or vegetable broth
1 egg yolk
1/2 lb. pappardelle
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Fill a large pot with water and a couple pinches of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add butter and oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and parsley; cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the squash blossoms, a pinch of salt, and the saffron. Stir gently to combine. Add 3/4 cup of the broth, stir gently, and raise the heat to medium. As the broth starts to reduce, continue adding more broth gradually until it has reduced significantly and only a small film of broth coats the vegetables. This should take about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a smallish bowl, whisk the egg yolk.
Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water. While it cooks, place the sauce back on medium heat. Use a small cup to scoop up about 3 Tbs of pasta water and, whisking constantly with a fork, gradually add the hot water to the egg yolk to temper it. Don’t skimp on the water, or your egg will curdle when added to the sauce. Pour the yolk mixture into the saute pan, and stir continuously to combine. The yolk will thicken the sauce.
By now, the pasta should be perfectly al dente. (Mine took 2 1/2 minutes.) Scoop the pasta from its cooking water into the sauce, and use tongs to incorporate it into the sauce. Cook the two together for about 30 seconds, then serve in shallow bowls or on plates, topped with grated Pecorino Romano.