Milk Street Weeknight Italian (Ep 401)



Pasta with Zucchini, Pancetta and Saffron

Start to finish: 40 minutes | Servings: 4

This is our version of a fantastic pasta offering from Trattoria Bertozzi in Bologna, Italy. In lieu of guanciale (cured pork jowl), we opted for easier-to-find but equally meaty pancetta, and we lightened up the dish’s richness by swapping half-and-half for the cream. The restaurant uses gramigna pasta, a tubular, curled shape from the Emilio-Romagna region. We found that more widely available cavatappi or gemelli works just as well combining with the zucchini and catching the lightly creamy sauce in its crevices.

Don’t boil the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it has a little more bite than is desirable in the finished dish; the noodles will cook a bit more in the sauce. Also, don’t forget to reserve 2 cups of the cooking water before draining the pasta.


  • 1 pound zucchini
  • 12 ounces short, curly pasta, such as cavatappi or gemelli
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler


Halve the zucchini lengthwise, then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Slice each half lengthwise about ¼ inch thick, then cut the strips crosswise into 1-inch sections. In a large pot, boil 4 quarts of water. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain. In a small bowl, combine 1½ cups of the reserved water and the saffron; set aside the remaining ½ cup water.

While the pasta cooks, in a 12-inch skillet over medium, cook the pancetta and garlic, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has rendered some of its fat and begins to crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic, then stir in the zucchini and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is fully crisped and the zucchini is lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the pasta and the saffron water to the skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring, until the sauce is lightly thickened and clings to the pasta, about 1 minute. Off heat, taste and season with salt and pepper. If needed, stir in additional reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time to create a lightly creamy sauce. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with Parmesan.


Bolognese-Style Pork Cutlets

Start to finish: 50 minutes, plus chilling | Servings: 4

Classic cotolette alla bolognese are pan-fried breaded veal cutlets topped with salty, savory prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. After frying, the crisp cutlets usually are placed in a simple pan sauce and cooked just long enough to melt the cheese. For our version, instead of veal we use pork tenderloin, which is similarly mild in flavor, and we layer the prosciutto slices onto the cutlets, under the breading, to better integrate them into the dish. For an extra-crisp crust, we use Japanese-style panko breadcrumbs, but we lightly crush them before use so the breading isn’t overly light and airy. Our method for melting the cheese keeps the bottoms of the cutlets crisp, and the lemon- spiked sauce, served on the side, brightens up the all the rich, salty flavors.

Don’t pound the pork without using plastic wrap. The plastic wrap prevents the meat pounder from sticking to the meat, thereby helping to avoid tears. This is especially important when the meat is pounded very thin, as it is here. After pounding the cutlets, season them only with pepper, not with salt, as the prosciutto and Parmesan provide lots of salinity. Finally, when adding the water to the pan of fried cutlets, ake sure to pour it around them, not on them.


  • 2½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1¼-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin and patted dry 4 slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces total)
  • 12 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese (without rind), shredded on the small holes of a box grater (2 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
  • ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve


Place the panko in a large a zip-close bag and seal. Run a rolling pin over the panko until finely crushed. Empty into a pie plate or wide shallow bowl, then stir in ½ teaspoon pepper. In a second similar dish, stir the flour and 1 teaspoon pepper. In a third dish, beat the eggs with a fork.

Cut the pork tenderloin in half crosswise, making the tail-end slightly larger, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Place 2 pieces between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder, gently pound each piece to an even ⅛-inch thickness. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Season both sides of each cutlet with pepper, then lay a prosciutto slice on each cutlet. Re-cover with plastic wrap and gently pound so the prosciutto adheres.

One at a time, dredge the cutlets in the flour, turning to coat and shaking off any excess, then dip in the egg and, finally, coat with the panko, pressing so it adheres. Set the cutlets on a large plate.

Refrigerate uncovered for 15 minutes. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and place near the stovetop.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 6 tablespoons of oil until barely smoking. Add 2 cutlets and cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip and cook until the second sides are golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to the prepared rack. Repeat with the remaining 6 tablespoons oil and remaining cutlets. Wipe out the skillet and set aside.

Evenly sprinkle the cutlets with the Parmesan. Place 2 cutlets, cheese side up, in the same skillet, then set the pan over medium- high. Pour ¼ cup water around the cutlets, immediately cover and cook until the cheese has melted, the water has evaporated and the cutlets begin to sizzle, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a large spatula, return the cutlets to the rack and repeat with the remaining cutlets; tent with foil. Using paper towels, wipe out the skillet.

In the same skillet over medium, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broth, then cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about ⅓ cup, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in the lemon juice, then taste and season with pepper. Pour into a serving bowl. Transfer the cutlets to a platter and serve with the sauce and lemon wedges on the side.

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