• Yield: Serves 4-6

We didn't tend to eat a lot of pasta at home when I was a child as my mother is a diabetic, but I remember my dad serving spaghetti with steak in his restaurant, and it was always a real treat. I spent nine months working in Tuscany several years ago, and that totally sorted my pasta cravings out! This recipe is full of fresh flavors and takes no time to make. For an even quicker option, you can cook the zucchini with the pasta (just add 4 minutes before the end).

  • 2 medium zucchini, trimmed 

  • 10 1/2 oz fresh linguine (dried is fine if it's all you have) 

  • a good glug of olive oil 

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and dried 

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 

  • a pinch of dried red pepper flakes (optional) 

  • 1/2 cup chopped mint 

  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh dill 

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

  • 7 tablespoons butter, diced 

  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Kefalotyri, Parmesan, or Pecorino 

Slice the zucchini lengthwise as thinly as possible and cut into long shreds.

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to the package instructions, then drain in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the capers, and cook until crisp. Set aside, heat a little more oil in the pan, and cook the zucchini, garlic, and pepper flakes, if using, until they are just tender. (You may need to cook the zucchini in two batches depending on the size of your pan.)

Toss the zucchini with the drained pasta, along with the capers and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Add the butter, 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, and half the cheese and mix well. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

Variation: A lovely variation to this recipe is to cook some peeled shrimp with the capers and then add a little freshly grated lemon zest at the end. If you have the luxury of having Pickled Caper Leaves, you may want to toss a few through the pasta as well. 

Smashing Plates by Maria Elia is published by Kyle Books, priced $27.95. Photography by Jenny Zarins.