This is a traditional and popular pasta recipe from Sicily. It's quick and easy -- but incredibly satisfying -- and it's also proof that zucchini don't need to be coated in tons of batter in order to be fried to delicious perfection.
Ricotta salata is an aged ricotta cheese, a harder, salty cheese that is suitable for grating. If you can't find it, substitute Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Provolone Piccante, or Mizithra cheese.
The dish--start-to-finish--can be ready in just about 20 minutes!
Wash and dry the zucchini and slice it into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Spread the zucchini rounds out on a baking sheet or large cutting board and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let sit for a few minutes to pull out some excess water.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
After about 5 minutes, pat the excess water from the zucchini rounds with a paper towel.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet (enough to cover the bottom of the skillet and have about 1/8 inch of depth) over medium heat until shimmering. Fry the zucchini pieces, a few at a time so as to not crowd them, until well browned on both sides. (I find that wooden chopsticks -- if you have good chopsticks skills, that is -- are handy for turning and arranging foods that you are frying.) Transfer the fried zucchini to a large paper-towel lined plate to drain any excess oil and set aside.
When the pasta water reaches a rolling boil, add the tagliatelle and cook until just al dente (remember that fresh pasta does not take as long to cook as dried pasta, generally only 1 to 4 minutes.
Drain the pasta well and divide it between four serving plates. Top each serving with some fried zucchini, a sprinkling of chopped fresh mint, freshly ground black pepper, and freshly grated ricotta salata. You can serve extra grated cheese at the table as well.
Optional additions and substitutions:
Add a light sprinkle of lemon zest on top when serving.
Add 1 sliced garlic clove to the frying oil before adding the zucchini, for extra flavor.
Add lightly sauteed, halved cherry tomatoes and/or pancetta to the pasta together with the fried zucchini.
You can substitute the fresh tagliatelle with dried spaghetti instead, adjusting the cooking time as needed.
Use yellow summer squash instead of zucchini.
Substitute the mint with fresh basil leaves.