The words 'comfort food' are bandied about a lot. We all love it, we all crave it at certain points, and we all have our own particular version of it. Common traits include a high level of stodginess, created by substantial quantities of carbs and creamy dairy, and the absence of anything remotely healthy. Pasta, and, indeed, Italian food in general, is perfect comfort food, containing as it does all of these elements and still comprising an entirely legitimate meal (unlike, say, super noodles, tayto sandwiches or rice pudding), and though it can often be healthified by upping the veggie content and laying off the butter, it can similarly be dehealthified by lashing in the cream, parmesan and salt. This little beauty of a dish goes one step further and requires frying the only vegetable that goes into it. And, much as I love courgettes, they aren't exactly a powerhouse of hardcore vitamin action - though, as someone pointed out to me, fried courgettes are considerably less unhealthy than, say, fried chorizo. For all of you who think that G Paltrow is a po-faced health freak, then in your faces mofos because this stodgefest is from her book Notes From My Kitchen Table. It's speedy, it's inexpensive, it's a good refueller if you've been out exercising, it's perfect for curling up with a big bowl of and getting lost in a book, it provides all kinds of warmth when the unseasonal August weather leaves you damp and cold to the core - it's one of those dishes that's like an old pal you can always rely on to make you feel better when you need a pick-me-up. Not a crazy-night-out sort of upliftingness, but more the heartwarmingly cheery by-the-fire variety.
Did I forget to mention that it takes mere minutes to make? It takes mere minutes to make. Start by slicing up the courgettes, nice and thinly but not paper-thin or else they will crisp up too much and too quickly and chances are you'll be left with burnt pieces of parchment. Toss the courgette slices in flour, and make sure that both sides are coated to ensure maximum crispyness.
Heat up some olive oil on the pan and put the courgettes on there in a single layer - they'll have to be done in batches. Keep an eye on them so that you catch them and either turn them or take them off the pan when they develop that lovely crunchy brown crust.
As they come off the pan, pop them all on a plate and sprinkle with salt.
The all-important saucy bit: grate some parmesan, mix together with some olive oil and then add some of the cooking water from your spaghetti (what do you mean, what spaghetti?! get a move on and put your pasta on!) bit by bit until you have a lovely thick, creamy consistency.
If you need me to tell you at this point that you should have some spag good to go, well then you have problems that I can't help you with. Your pasta should cook nice and quickly while the courgettes are on the go, so timing-wise I would say pop the kettle on while you're slicing your courgettes and take it from there - it will all synchronise nicely.
Have a few basil leaves at the ready.
Then just stir it all together: courgettes, spaghetti, sauce, and basil leaves, along with some seasoning. I like to mix it all up using forks, as I find that it can be difficult to blend the other ingredients right into the spaghetti.
All comfort food, of course, should be eaten in moderation. This is evidenced by the fact that I ate this rather delicious dish three days in a row (with typically generous portion sizes) and found it quite a struggle to fit into my favourite jeans last week. A cautionary tale.