Linguine with Zucchini, Garlic, Black Olives

This is my attempt to re-create a dish described to me by one of my loyal customers. It was his grandmother's specialty, and grandmothers are indeed the essence of Italian cooking. The honest flavors of the olives, garlic, onions, and herbs appealed to me instantly.

It Italy, bread crumbs are often used on pasta in place of cheese to save money. Buy unseasoned bread crumbs from a local bakery -- they'll taste much better than the ones you buy in the supermarket.

2 tablespoons kosher {salt}, plus more to taste
1 pound linguine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3  garlic cloves, peeled
1  large red onion, thinly sliced
4  medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise in half and then into paper-thin half-moons
20  Gaeta or Nicoise olives, pitted
1 1/2 teaspoons dried {oregano}
1/2 teaspoon crushed {red pepper flakes}, or more to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs or store-bought unseasoned bread crumbs
Fill a 10-quart stockpot with 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Add the pasta, stir and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. When it is hot, add the olive oil and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion and zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and just starting to color, about 5 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the dish from browning. Add the olives, oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes, and season to taste with kosher salt.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and drain the pasta. Add it to the pan with the sauce and toss to combine. If the pasta looks dry, add the reserved cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing to combine between additions. Transfer the pasta to a large serving platter. Sprinkle on the bread crumbs, and serve immediately.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate

Preparation Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 15-20 min

Servings: 4 to 6

Recipe By: Pino Puongo and Mark Strausman

From:  Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen
Used with permission of Artisan