Monday, 28 April 2014


Zucchine Tonde, Ripiene di Risoni, Pancetta, Limone, Dragoncello e Timo
Round Zucchini with Risoni, Bacon, Lemon, Tarragon & Thyme

No my friends, this is not going to have anything to do with some childrens cartoon show, it is nothing to do with fantasy... but it does have to do with a real-life, tasty meal and yes, it does have something to do with "a dragon"...

The dragon involved is the Italian term for tarragon, which of course you will know by now is called "Dragoncello"... I never get tired of reminding you good people of the fact each time I prepare a dish with it ;-) It is just such an adorable name for a herb!

This simple dish was made from 1 round zucchini, a couple of handfuls of risoni noodles, a handful of finely chopped bacon, 1 Spring onion, 1 lemon and plenty of tarragon and thyme... all down-to-earth and wonderful Springtime flavors!

My Vegetarian friends will be asking themselves if it is really necessary to include the bacon in this little creation of mine and of course the answer is no- you can prepare a completely meat-free version of this with no problems... but I do have to say you'll be glad that you did use the bacon if you follow my recommendations... because that little bit of bacon helps to bring out the best of all of the other flavors in a most delightful way! I mean... we are talking about bacon here, folks!?! What's not to love?!?

Simple as simple can be, the first thing we need to do is to cut the round zucchini in half and to scoop out the rather soft center and the seeds, simply using a tablespoon to do so... because as well as the fact that fact that the center tastes bland and squidgy once cooked- we need to make some room in order to be able to stuff them with!

Once we have hollowed-out the zucchini we can start the water boiling to cook the risoni- in they go, along with a good pinch of salt, and then on top of that goes a steam rack and the zucchini, so that they can steam whilst the risoni boil... good cooking begins with clever multi-tasking! It really does!

Whilst the risoni are boiling away- and they will take anything between 10 and 15 minutes depending on the brand, we can finely chop a stalk of tarragon and the Spring onion, and we can slice and finely chop 2-3 strips of lemon zest... we do want to have a nice, flavorful dish after all!

After the risoni had been boiling for 7-8 minutes or so, I added the lemon zest to the water and stirred it in, so that it could blanch, give off its flavor to the pasta and become a little less intense in itself... again- multi-tasking!

In the meantime, I started the little handful of bacon bits sizzling in a dry non-stick pan, crisping-up and bubbling away in its own fat. Once it was nice and brown, I added the finely sliced onion, lemon zest and tarragon and gave it a brief stir-fry together before draining the excess water from the risoni and adding them into the mix... hisss!

Of course, adding the risoni, moist as they are, brings up all of the good flavors from the bottom of the pan... and the fragrance that brings with it is really amazing and yummy! To make sure we take the best advantage of all the flavor that has developed in the pan, the juice of half the lemon and a tablespoon or so of olive oil will help everything to come together wonderfully and to infuse into the risoni... and the result IS really terrific!

I added an extra little sprinkle of salt to the zucchini before spooning-in the risoni, as zucchini tends to be a little sweet tasting in itself and it would be a shame if it were to taste bland after steaming.

Also, the fact that I spooned the risoni into zucchini is simply a matter of taste and a bit of fun on my part and you could obviously slice or dice the zucchini and stir everything together- it would just have been a shame not to do so with this pretty, little green cannonball! 

I served the stuffed zucchini on top of the excess risoni, with a drizzle of olive oil, the leaves of 4-5 plucked sprigs of thyme and plenty of freshly ground pepper and have to say that the result was lovely! Nice, clean and simple flavors, mild and light and perfect for a Spring meal, whether for lunch or in the evening. 

The tarragon and lemon give a nice citrus/anise flavor and thyme gives a rich, herb  touch that goes well with the salty and smokey bacon... just a little of each thing goes a long way and the combination is a good thing... that I hope you will all enjoy as much as I did!

Go give it a go!

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