Gnocchi (or gnocchetti, as the smaller ones are known) can be made of a variety of things. Potato gnocchi are perhaps the most popular and well-known variety, especially in America. Other options include semolina flour, wheat flour, and ordinary flour + egg.

These are made of potatoes and deliciousness, and although potato is technically a vegetable, there was a mysterious voice inside my head that told me to add another vegetable to this dish.

I lied, it wasn’t a mysterious voice. It was my mother’s voice.

Regardless, I needed a more credible vegetable, and I turned to zucchini. Its credentials include: being green (automatic sign of legitimacy in the realm of veggies), being crunchy, and adapting well to many different flavors. In my kitchen, potatoes and zucchini are like Ross and Rachel. They do sometimes see other ingredients, but somehow they always seem to end up together.

This dish comes together fairly simply. By putting the zucchini in the pan with no oil/butter at first, and letting it cook most of the way, less oil is absorbed by the zucchini overall.

Once the “naked” zucchini has cooked by itself for 6-8 minutes, take it out of the pan and put it aside. Then add 1-2 Tbsp. of oil to the pan, plus a clove or two of garlic, and either a whole dried chili or some chili flakes. Once the garlic is lightly browned and the kitchen smells amazing, throw the zucchini back in, then the pasta, salt to taste, add some cheese, and call it a day.

It is finally getting a little chilly in Rome! Not cold, not mid-November weather by any means, but enough to induce the occasional shiver and demand long sleeves. Of course, the Italians are bundled up like Eskimos, in full-length down parkas and scarves and gloves, huddling for warmth as though they are trekking in the Arctic, when in reality it is 57°F and sunny.

They aren’t the only ones feeling the chill. The birds of Italy seem to have clued in to the impending cold season, and have begun migrating South accordingly. Each evening, I look at the sky and see thousands and thousands of birds swarming in and out of various formations, none of which resemble the “V” shape that I was taught to expect. And because this is happening every day, I can only assume that a) there are LOTS of birds here, or b) they are getting lost and doubling back. Either way, it makes for a pretty amazing sight:

Gnocchetti with Chili-Garlic Zucchini recipe

  • 1 serving of gnocchetti (I hate putting a measurement on this, because everyone eats different amounts of pasta)
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil (I used a chili-infused olive oil, but extra-virgin would work too)
  • 1 dried red chili pepper OR 1 tsp. dried chili flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano

Sauté the diced zucchini in a pan for 6-8 minutes, or until the zucchini begin to look cooked (but not very brown). Transfer zucchini from pan into a bowl, and set aside.

In the same pan, add olive oil, chili and garlic, and heat on low until garlic begins to brown.

Boil gnocchi in water – be careful not to overcook or gnocchi will become very mushy. (Note: it is also possible to add uncooked gnocchi to the olive oil, and sauté it, but boiling is a slightly healthier option.)

Once garlic is browned, add zucchini back into pan, along with boiled gnocchi, and toss together. Add salt and cheese and combine. Serve while hot!

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