Liam Driscoll, the executive chef at Sydney’s Big Poppa’s, learned to cook Italian about as far away from there as you can get: at the white-tableclothed Restaurant Pendolino in Sydney, which calls itself a ristorante. Hence his repertoire of classic dishes such as cacio e pepe and lamb ragu pappardelle.
“Sometimes we keep it pretty close to what they do in Italy, but other times we like to play with it a little bit,” he says.
This salad is a good example of the latter. The ingredients aren’t faithful to Italy, but the seasonal thinking is. It was created to take advantage of the beautiful zucchinis and sugar snaps that are available during spring and summer. “They’ve got to be super fresh,” Driscoll says.
“It stands alone as a salad, but you can pair it up with some sliced prosciutto or other salumi. You can have it as a lighter salad to accompany a heavier pasta or meat dish, or even with seafood.”
Big Poppa’s Zucchini and Sugar Snap Salad With Macadamia Pesto
Takes 15 minutes to prepare
500g baby zucchini (or large zucchini if you can’t find baby)
500g sugar snap peas, tops removed
1½ bunches mint, picked
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, picked
100g toasted macadamia nuts
2 lemons, juiced
1 clove garlic
100ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for dressing
100g Pecorino Romano, finely grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Take half the zucchini and slice thinly on a mandolin or shave with a vegetable peeler. If using baby zucchini, cut the rest lengthways, into 4 long quarters. Otherwise, cut large zucchinis into 5cm matchsticks.
Take half the sugar snaps and thinly slice lengthways. Blanch the rest in boiling water, whole, for 30 seconds, then refresh in iced water.
To make the pesto, put ⅔ of the mint, all the parsley, garlic, macadamias, a pinch of salt and the olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, sugar snaps and the remainder of the mint leaves and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the lemon juice and a little more olive oil. Mix everything together. Drizzle some pesto over and finish with a sprinkle of pecorino. Store excess pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Hint: if you’re taking this salad to a party at someone else’s house, bring the lemon juice and olive oil in a separate container and pesto in another. Dress the salad and add the pecorino just before everyone sits down to eat.
This is an extract from The Broadsheet Italian Cookbook, which features 80 essential recipes from Australia’s best restaurants, cafes and bars. Available at shop.broadsheet.com.au.