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Prawn, courgette and cherry tomato pasta

About this recipe: This is known as "mare e monti" (sea and hills) in Italian because it uses prawns from the sea and vegetables from the hilly land that runs down to the coast around so much of Italy. Mezze penne rigate and spaghetti both go well with this sauce. The fresher the ingredients the better and it's a great way to get courgettes down kids.

Ingredients
Serves: 4 

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovy fillets in olive oil or anchovy paste
  • 4 average-sized courgettes
  • 250-500g fresh or frozen prawns (depending on how rich you like your sauces)
  • 400-500g cherry tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • salt
  • 400-500 g pasta

Method
Prep:15min  ›  Cook:30min  ›  Ready in:45min 

  1. Drizzle a generous coating of extra-virgin olive oil into a capacious, non-stick frying pan.
  2. Peel the cloves of garlic and either add them whole to the pan after crushing them slightly with the heel of your hand to be removed later, or finely dice them by making a latticework of longitudinal incisions down the length of the clove (naughts and crosses style) and then finely slicing them horizontally into the pan.
  3. Add the roughly-chopped anchovies or anchovy paste.
  4. Wash and dry the courgettes, and finely dice them, using the same technique you used for the garlic. Add them to the pan. Gently sweat the garlic, anchovies and courgettes over a low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the prawns and continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes. In the meantime set a large saucepan full of water to boil on another hob.
  6. Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to the pan together with the roughly-torn basil. Turn the heat up, cover and cook until the tomatoes are soft and separate from their skin. Add a little water if you think the sauce is drying out too much. Remove the skins by hand with a fork if you have the patience, are in perfectionist mode or have faddy eaters to contend with.
  7. As soon as the water boils throw in the pasta and add coarse salt. Cook al dente*, drain and add to the pan with the sauce.
  8. Toss quickly over a high heat until the pasta is thoroughly impregnated with the sauce and serve onto hot plates with a sprig of fresh basil on top.

Tip

*I'm not going to give you times on cooking the pasta because this complex art depends on the exact heat of your hob, the pan, the water (so the Italians say), the type of pasta you're using and personal taste. Follow instructions on packet if in doubt.

Serving suggestion:

The Italians will often add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil "a crudo" just before serving, but you probably only want to do this if you are both lucky enough to have spectacular olive oil and not to have to watch your weight.

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