Cutting the zucchini into strips and cooking them until they're tender but still holding their shape allows them to twist and turn around the fusilli, clinging to the noodles like sauce.
In addition, the pine nuts add richness to the plate, which ― like all good pasta dishes ― tastes greater than the sum of its parts.
The basic method for this pasta (sautéeing a vegetable, then adding aromatics, herbs, and cheese) is easily applied to other flavor combinations.
• In place of the zucchini, use 2 lbs. red bell peppers ― cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips ― and use 2 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves instead of the basil.
• Divide peppers into 2 batches and cook, following directions for zucchini, then adding ½ sweet onion, thinly sliced, to the second batch.
• In step 4, substitute 1 cup crumbled feta cheese for the parmesan.
• Replace the zucchini with 2 lbs. eggplant, cut into ½-in.-thick slices and then into ½-in.-thick strips, and cook until brown and soft, 5 to 10 minutes.
• Add ½ tsp. red chile flakes with the chopped garlic.
• Instead of basil and parmesan, use fresh mint and 1 cup grated ricotta salata.