Last time I checked, it felt exactly like summer should be (minus the heat). Relaxed, long, slow days, each with the unmistakeable feeling that every summer so far has had for me: a hiatus between a school year and the next, or an academic year and the next. I always knew that no matter what, at least until the end of August, apart from the odd summer job, I had no real committment to speak of. Summer 2012 brought a few changes to my usual summer routine. First of all, it should have been the summer in which I wrote my Masters dissertation. Ahem. The final deadline is a month away and my project is less-than-halfway through. Then, the end of my Masters course brought along all sorts of fears and doubts that come when the search for the first professional post begins and the prospect of a real career materialises in front of you, looking both incredibly scary and extremely alluring. Against every single one of my (very doomed) premonitions, I found a job almost immediately and now I’m two weeks into my new role. And although I couldn’t be happier about how things have gone, I do feel like I didn’t have enough time to adjust to the new routine.
Luckily for me, courgettes are still here, three months later, to remind me that it is, indeed, still summer, albeit at its very last stretch. The first time I cooked this was at the beginning of June, in Italy, with the first young courgettes of the season. Now they are long, fat and starting to look more like marrows than courgettes, but I still love them, especially chargrilled on the barbecue or in a griddle pan. I spent my whole childhood and young adulthood complaining about having steamed courgettes every dinner, day after day, for what it felt like eternity. But this year, now that my summer is definitely ended, I’d love for courgettes to stay here a bit longer. I’m so happy I came up with this recipe. It’s such a brilliant way of not only using up courgettes, but also preparing a simple and relatively quick pasta sauce that can be made in advance, stored for a day or two in the fridge and then reheated when needed. It’s also delicious on some toast as a lunch, snack or starter. If you’re a grilled courgette fiend like me (tell me I’m not the only one!), make this and then come back, because I have another recipe lined up that will make you very, very happy.
Make sure you have a big jar with a tight fitting lid (similar to the one in the photos) ready to use. Start off by washing and drying the courgettes. Slice them lengthwise, each slice should be just shy of 1 cm thick. Heat your griddle pan on a medium-to-high heat. Now, a note on oil: I don’t use oil to grill the courgettes. There’s enough raw oil used later on in the recipe, and if you’re patient enough the courgette slices won’t stick to the pan anyway. So, place the slices in the pan and wait for them to brown . Don’t try to move them until they are well charred, or they will stick. You want the slices to be charred on the outside but with a good bite in the middle. Once they’re ready on one side, lift them gently with a pair of tongs and turn on the other side. As soon as a batch is ready, set is aside and proceed with the next one until you finish the courgettes. In the meanwhile, wash the cherry tomatoes, halve and quarter them and place them in the jar. Peel the garlic cloves and put in the jar along with the tomatoes. Finely chop the dried chilli (or chillies) and add to the jar. When the courgettes are cool enough to handle, cube them and place them in the jar. Add the extra virgin olive oil, close the lid and leave for a couple of hours. Once your pasta is cooked (al dente, please! Soft pasta is a crime against food), return to the pot and fold in the content of the jar with the heat off to warm up. Serve immediately, with some freshly grated parmesan if you like.