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Courgette and Basil Pasta with Pesto Crumbs

Though there’s no getting around the fact that this dish is rich in calories, it is not heavy, but actually light and fresh somehow, comfort food in a summer wardrobe, if you will. You might present it alongside something meaty off the grill, or as a vegetarian main dish, with perhaps a colorful platter of sliced heirloom tomatoes (drizzled with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar) to complement the meal. Either way, it’s summertime-light-and-easy.

Courgette and Basil Pasta with Pesto Crumbs

16 oz. penne pasta
5 courgettes (zucchini), grated (about 1½ lbs.)
2 tbs. olive oil, plus a little extra
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
16 oz. crème fraîche (1¾ cup)
1 oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup)
leaves from a small bunch basil (stems discarded)
3 oz. chunk ciabatta (or other crusty bread)
handful toasted pine nuts, plus a few extra for sprinkling

Slightly undercook the pasta, then drain, reserving a ladleful of cooking water. Rinse the pasta with cold water to cool. Drain again, toss in a little olive oil to stop it sticking together and set aside while you get the rest of the bake ready.

Sauté the courgettes in the 2 tbs. olive oil for about 10 minutes to drive off most of the moisture and reduce down. Add the garlic and onion to the pan, cook for 2 minutes more, then season really well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and add to the pasta. Stir in most of the crème fraîche and half of the Parmesan with more seasoning if desired, then tip into an ovenproof dish. Dollop the rest of the crème fraîche over the top.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Whiz nearly all the basil leaves, remaining Parmesan, bread, and pine nuts together in a food processor to make pesto crumbs, then scatter all over the top. Finish with a few more pine nuts. Bake for 20 minutes until the topping is crisp and the dish is bubbling at the edges. Serve with a few more basil leaves scattered over if you like.

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