Summer dinner just got its greatest hit.
It is generally said that two things are certain: death and taxes. I would add a third: zucchini in summer. Zucchini fatigue (especially by the time August rolls around) is a real thing, but not when recipes like this exist. This Pasta With Chicken, Zucchini, and Mint may be the best pasta you’ll eat all summer.
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Why This Pasta With Chicken, Zucchini, and Mint Is So Darn Good: An Origin Story
This recipe expands on a recipe from the dearly-departed Brooklyn restaurant, Franny’s. A Park Slope favorite (at least until they expanded and some charm got left behind in the move), Franny’s was the kind of small Italian restaurant that felt like home, but with better food. Their pizzas were famously good, but I always steered myself toward the short, but perfect, pasta menu.
Hits like fusilli with pork sausage ragù got the most airtime, but their seasonal pastas always tasted great, too. Not because they were complicated, but because they were not — just the exactly-right combination of good flavors.
This recipe is based on Franny’s recipe for a simple penne with zucchini, mint, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I wanted a little more substance, so I added some onion — which complements zucchini perfectly — and cut-up chicken breast. I am allergic to penne, so I used ziti. But any medium-length tube pasta, including rigatoni, works well.
A few recipe notes and tips:
- Make sure you use a very large skillet, and that the oiled pan is hot when you add the chicken and zucchini. You want each to get a nice brown sear and not steam-cook. Let each sit for a few minutes. Resist the temptation to stir or else you will interfere with the browning process.
- I could see this being good with a good dollop of fresh ricotta on top, but that is just a suggestion.
- Cut the zucchini into thin, 2-inch long batons. This complements the shape of the pasta. As a general rule of thumb, vegetable cuts should complement the dish that they are in.
- Be generous with the mint. There are a lot of good flavors going on from the onion, garlic, zucchini, and salty pasta. You want to taste the mint, so use plenty.
What is your favorite zucchini recipe? Share in the comments.
Pasta With Zucchini, Chicken, and Mint
- 1 pound chicken breast, cut into small pieces (about 1" square)
- 3 medium or 4 small zucchini
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1/2 onion, diced small
- 1/2 cup loosely-packed fresh mint, chopped
- 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more to serve
- 1 pound ziti pasta
- salt and freshly-cracked pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter
- red pepper flakes, extra mint, and grated cheese, to garnish
- Bring a large pot of generously-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until two minutes shy of al dente. Drain, reserving about a cup or more of pasta water.
- Trim the ends of the zucchini. Slice longways in half. Then slice each half lengthwise again, so you have four long pieces. Cut each horizontally in thirds. You should have a bunch of 2" by 1/2" batons.
- Heat half the olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet. Add the chicken in a single layer. Season generously with salt and pepper and let sit (do not stir) for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chicken cooks around the side and the bottom has turned golden brown. Add the onions and stir, cooking together until the chicken and onions are fully cooked, about 5 minutes more.
- Remove the chicken and onions from the pan. Add the remaining olive oil to coat the pan, and add the zucchini in a single layer, along with a generous pinch of salt and some fresh-cracked black pepper. Let cook without stirring for several minutes, until the bottoms are browned. Stir the zucchini and continue to cook for another minute or two.
- Add in the chicken, onions, garlic, butter, red pepper flakes, and pasta, along with a cup or so of pasta water. Stir everything to combine and let everything come together for a couple of minutes, while the pasta finishes cooking in the pasta water.
- Remove the skillet from heat. Add the cheese, mint, any additional seasoning, and toss to combine. Serve hot, topped with a little more mint and cheese.