As a child, I never enjoyed zucchini. Then when I was eleven, I spent a summer in France and came home excited about the new vegetable I had tried…courgette!
Even today I have a slightly love/hate relationship with courgette, as it can be just so terribly bland. This ragout of courgette with tomato and pancetta is anything but bland, however. This is a substantial side dish that goes well with lamb or chicken, or a firm white fish such as monkfish. It also makes a fabulous topping for pasta, polenta or even bruschetta. I always try to make extra so I can serve it as a side dish one night and a pasta topping later in the week.
I usually don’t bother salting the courgette to release liquid. If your courgette is particularly watery, remove the lid to finish cooking and allow the excess liquid to evaporate.
Courgette (zucchini) with tomato and pancetta (adapted from Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
100g diced pancetta
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
500g courgettes (about 3 large or 5 medium), washed and diced
a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped (or basil if you prefer)
salt and pepper to taste
Feeds 4-6 as a side dish
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add the onions and sweat for five minutes. When the onions are beginning to soften, add the diced pancetta and cook for another five minutes, stirring from time to time, until the pancetta has browned slightly. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the diced courgettes and cook for another five minutes.
Empty the tin of chopped tomatoes into the mixture and bring to the boil. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes stirring from time to time. Add the oregano and stir through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or reheat later.