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Jamie Simpson, the executive chef of The Culinary Vegetable Institute, works alongside Rach's good friend Farmer Lee Jones at The Chef's Garden, a farm-to-table produce delivery company. The pair visited Rachael at her home in Tuscany this summer and shared a delicious meal featuring produce from the garden. Jamie whipped up this colorful and vibrant-tasting pasta salad using every part of the zucchini plant, including the leaves, the stems below the leaves and the blossoms. If you don't have access to a zucchini plant, simply use kale leaves instead of zucchini leaves and add a little more zucchini to replace the stems. The blossoms are a nice touch, but the salad will still be great without them. 

Pro Tip from Jamie: Feel free to make the salad ahead of time. It gets even better as it marinates. 

Rach prepared Four Cheese Stuffed Eggplant Rolls for the dinner, which also included John's "Big Mistake" Cocktail (a bubbly twist on the Negroni) and Maria's Ricotta Cake and Olive Oil Cake


For the Pumpkin Seed Pesto:
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup blanched zucchini leaves, chopped (substitute kale leaves if you don't have access to a zucchini plant)
  • 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus some for garnish (optional)
  • Salt
For the Salad:
  • 1 cup rigatoni
  • 5 squash blossoms, cut or torn into individual petals (optional)
  • 5 baby zucchini, thinly shaved
  • 10 zucchini leaf stems, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (substitute more zucchini if you don’t have access to a zucchini plant)
  • About 1 cup fresh flowering herbs (torn or chopped, as needed), such as fennel, basil, mint, lavender, rosemary and thyme, plus some for garnish (optional)
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • Salt


Serves: 4


For the pesto, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and lightly fry until they start to crack, then allow the mixture to cool slightly. Transfer to a food processor, add the blanched leaves and the remaining ¾ cup oil and process until smooth, adding more oil if needed. Add the cheese and salt, seasoning aggressively, then set aside. 

For the salad, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, add the pesto and toss well. Top with additional cheese and/or herbs (if using).