Words and photos by Ren Behan
Summertime and the cooking is easy. Well, I think it has to be given our continuing heatwave here in the UK.
We’ve been enjoying plenty of picnics and outdoor dining, and much of our “staycation” food has been inspired by things we’ve enjoyed during previous holidays abroad. This prawn and courgette pasta, for example, is something we devoured last summer in Italy during the zucchini glut – and with just a handful of ingredients – olive oil, garlic, zucchini/courgette, prawns and pasta – this is simple cooking at its best.
Courgettes really are the stars of the summer season for me – they are incredibly versatile, mild in flavour and easy to cook. I often slice them lengthways with a peeler and brush them with garlic infused olive oil before laying them on a hot griddle pan in batches for just a few seconds. Or, for an Asian variation on the courgette and prawn theme, try this stir-fried warm salad with a little fresh chilli and a dash of soy sauce. However you like your courgettes, just be careful not to over-boil them into a state of green, watery mush. As with almost all the veg we eat now, just taking the bite away is pretty much all I do (the same applies to asparagus, green beans, broccoli, etc.). This will also make sure you retain as many of the nutrients as possible.
Any type of pasta works well in this recipe. We actually had this dish originally with linguine, but I like making it with small pasta shapes and here I’ve used orzo, which are tiny pieces of pasta, almost like grains of rice. Courgettes love garlic, so the more the merrier!
Orzo pasta with prawns and summer courgette
400g orzo pasta
2 cloves garlic
4-5 medium courgettes
200g frozen sustainably sourced cooked baby prawns
Sea salt and pepper to season
Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water, according to packet instructions. Peel and finely grate the garlic and chop the courgettes into small cubes. Get a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the garlic and courgettes with a good drizzle of olive oil. Fry until the courgette has softened, then stir in the prawns.
Drain the pasta, taking out a cupful of the pasta water, then add the pasta to the pan with the courgette and prawns. Add a splash of pasta water to loosen it, mix everything together well, season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving dish.
This is a lovely dish to enjoy outdoors, and I think it goes particularly well with the refreshing flavours of this Pink grapefruit and vodka cooler.