What’s for Dinner: Penne with Zucchini and Mint

Andrew Feinberg of Franny’s shares a kid-approved recipe


When Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg first opened Franny’s, a pizza parlor on a gritty street of Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, friends and family thought they’d gone mad. Nine years, two children, and one relocation later, the couple’s ecominded, locavore-centric labor of love is a must-visit for everyone from area families to Alice Waters.

But wooing New York Times critics is one thing; tantalizing mini palates is quite another. So we asked Feinberg for a go-to recipe from the duo’s first cookbook, out this month, that’s always a hit with their children, Prue, 7, and Marco, 6.

His pick, which takes advantage of summer’s squash bounty, is deceptively simple. The key, he says, is to seek out Romanesco zucchini (which can withstand higher cooking temps than the regular variety and, thus, caramelizes beautifully) and brown it deeply. And don’t even think about skimping on the butter and olive oil, which add body to the otherwise delicate dish.

Zucchini is one of the first summer vegetables available, and it’s around all summer, so we turn to it a lot. And I love the flavor of mint with zucchini; it just works well together. When we’re cooking at home, we usually leave out one or two ingredients for the kids’ meal and make ours side by side (they taste both versions at the very least). But this one is a favorite with all of us.


Penne with Zucchini and Mint
Serves four

1¾ lb. zucchini, preferably Romanesco, trimmed
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
1 lb. penne
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
¼ c. plus a scant 3 tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
3 tbsp. mint, chopped
¼ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1. Slice each zucchini into 2-inch-by-¼-inch batons (about 5 c.).

2. In a very large skillet (or Dutch oven), warm 2 tbsp. olive oil over high heat. Add half the zucchini, season with salt, and cook, without moving it, until dark golden and almost tender, 2-3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer zucchini to a paper towel-lined plate.

3. Add another 2 tbsp. olive oil to the skillet and repeat with remaining zucchini. Add 2 tbsp. water to the pan. Remove from heat.

4. In a large pot of well-salted, boiling water, cook pasta according to the package instructions until 2 minutes shy of al dente; drain.

5. In the same skillet, melt 3 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 2-3 minutes. Toss in penne and zucchini and cook until pasta is al dente (1-2 minutes), adding more water if sauce seems dry.

6. Toss in ¼ c. Parmigiano-Reggiano and remaining butter. Add mint and season to taste with salt, pepper, and leftover cheese.

Excerpted from Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian, available at amazon.com, $25.

Photos: Courtesy of Artisan Books; John Von Pamer / Courtesy of Franny’s