Pasta with zucchini flowers, saffron and ham

Pasta with zucchini flowers (courgette flowers), saffron and ham.

Pasta with zucchini flowers, saffron and ham is a beautiful delicate and creamy summer dish that you are certain to fall in love with and want to make time and again (at least while zucchini/courgette flowers are in season!)

(click to go straight to recipe

Pasta with zucchini flowers and saffron

Garganelli ‘paglio e fieno’ con fiori di zucca, zucchini, zafferano e prosciutto cotto.

There are many foods I had never eaten before moving to Italy. Foods that today I love but were really alien to me when I was younger. For example, zucchini flowers! Italians love zucchini flowers (fiori di zucca). They’ve been eating these flowers since well before edible flowers became a thing!

Pasta with zucchini flowers and saffron

Eating zucchini flowers in Italy.

The most popular way to prepare zucchini flowers here is to fill them, coat them in batter and fry or bake them…totally divine! Although in Southern Italy they also just batter and fry them without filling. One of the most well-known filled and fried zucchini flower recipes is ‘fior di zucca alla Romana’.

Ingredients for pasta with zucchini flowers, saffron and ham

This is practically a signature dish in Rome, eaten as street food, as a starter or with an aperitif.  Fiori di zucca fritti in Rome is made by filling the flowers with a local cheese similar to mozzarella called provatura and anchovies, dipping them in a batter of just cold water and flour and frying the flowers in hot oil!

Ingredients for pasta with zucchini flowers, saffron and ham prepared in small white bowls

Italians also eat zucchini flowers in other dishes. These include frittata, risotto and, of course, pasta! Pasta with zucchini flowers usually includes the zucchini themselves, cut into small rings, cubes or slices. Saffron is another popular ingredient in zucchini flower pasta recipes. And for a touch of meat, Italians will add pancetta, speck, ham or sausage.

onions, zucchini and cooked ham cubes cooking in frying pan

Pasta with zucchini flowers.

Pasta with zucchini flowers and saffron doesn’t seem to be associated with one particular area or city. Although the use of saffron is more common in the regions where it is grown, in particular Sardinia, Marche, Tuscany, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo, which is the region in which saffron was first cultivated in Italy back in the 14th century.

onion, zucchini, chopped ham and zucchini flowers in frying pan

The zucchini flowers.

When I go shopping for zucchini flowers, I can find two types, male and female!! Yes, zucchini have both and pollination is carried out by bees or by hand. The flower from which the zucchini actually grows is the female! The male on the other hand grows on a stalk. For this pasta with zucchini flowers recipe, I used female flowers with very young zucchini attached. I love them so tiny and crispy. They don’t get as soft as bigger zucchini when you cook them! However, you can also use male flowers and buy the zucchini separately. In fact, traditionally, although there’s no difference in taste, male zucchini flowers are used more in cooking. This is because if the female flowers are removed, the zucchini won’t grow!

sauce cooking in frying pan for pasta with zucchini flowers, saffron and ham

The pasta.

This recipe for pasta with zucchini flowers can be made with different types of pasta, although short pasta is more typical. I chose to use garganelli, a beautiful short egg pasta from Emilia-Romagna. The garganelli pasta I used was green and yellow. Italians call this ‘paglia e fieno’, meaning straw and hay. This use of two different coloured pastas in one dish is very typical in Emilia-Romagna and tagliatelle served this way is very traditional. The green colour is usually created by adding spinach to the pasta dough.

garganelli pasta paglia e fieno (yellow and green)

The ‘paglio e fieno’ garganelli really went well in this pasta with zucchini flowers recipe. Not only because the green pasta has a slightly spinach taste but also the colours combined beautifully with the zucchini, zucchini flowers and saffron.

sauce in frying pan for pasta with zucchini flowers, saffron and ham

Other ingredients.

My hubby wanted to have some meat in this dish so I chose a recipe that included cubes of cooked ham. For a vegetarian version you can leave out the ham. You can also replace the ham with pancetta, sausage or speck. However, I liked the flavour the ham added. It’s not as strong as pancetta or speck.

garganelli pasta with zucchini flowers, saffron and ham

This recipe can also be made without cheese or with ricotta instead of heavy cream. Whichever way you make this pasta with zucchini flowers I’m sure you’ll love not only the combination of flavours but how appetizing and colourful the dish looks. 

If you make this recipe I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. Please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Buon appetito!

(See the recipe on the next page. Just scroll down and click 2) 


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  • Avatar
    Sophia Inza
    August 8, 2018 12:23 am

    This is beautiful and looks delish!

    • Jacqui
      August 8, 2018 5:05 pm

      Thanks so much Sophia, I’m happy you like it!

  • Avatar
    August 8, 2018 12:00 am

    I’ve just been hearing about zucchini flowers and I need to try to find them!

    • Jacqui
      August 8, 2018 5:05 pm

      Zucchini flowers are Ahmazing Amanda! I hope you succeed in finding some!

  • Avatar
    August 7, 2018 5:06 pm

    I was drooling just reading the title! The flavors in this lovely pasta dish are exquisite! I have to come up with some zucchini flowers! Saffron is so gorgeous with this! Yum!!

    • Jacqui
      August 8, 2018 5:08 pm

      Thank you dearest Beth! Yes, this recipe has some wonderful flavours. I love it! Hope you find some zucchini flowers and get to try it!

  • Avatar
    Katie Crenshaw | A Fork’s Tale
    August 7, 2018 2:43 pm

    I never knew that you could eat zucchini flowers. They sound delicious! I can’t wait to try them. This recipe looks fantastic.

    • Jacqui
      August 8, 2018 5:09 pm

      Grazie Katie! Zucchini flowers are a big thing here in Italy! Very popular. Hope you’ll get to try them!

  • Avatar
    Linda | Simply Healthyish
    August 7, 2018 8:01 am

    Wow! This pasta sounds so elegant and love the combination you have in this bowl. And that color looks stunning too.

    • Jacqui
      August 9, 2018 7:32 am

      Thanks so much Linda! Yes, this is a really beautiful pasta recipe that tastes divine too!

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    [email protected]
    August 5, 2018 4:47 pm

    What bra flavors!

    • Jacqui
      August 9, 2018 7:32 am

      Grazie Patrick!

  • Avatar
    Heidy L. McCallum
    August 5, 2018 4:23 pm

    This is an awesome recipe, I love how you explain everything. Very intriguing post and I love this recipe. What part of Italy are you residing in if you don’t mind me asking? My family is from Bellosguardo. It’s a very small town.

    • Jacqui
      August 9, 2018 7:37 am

      Thanks so much Heidy! I live just outside Verona in the hills behind Soave. A very beautiful part of Northern Italy. I had to look up Bellosguardo, as I didn’t know it. In Campania, right? Wonderful scenery there! In fact, that’s what Bellosguardo means, beautiful views!

  • Avatar
    Dawn – Girl Heart Food
    August 5, 2018 4:04 pm

    This looks so summery! I’ve never tried zucchini flowers, but would love to! This and some bread and vino and I’m set for a delicious Sunday supper 🙂

    • Jacqui
      August 9, 2018 7:39 am

      Grazie Dawn! Yes, this is a lovely summer dish! Zucchini flowers are delish. Hope you get to try them one day!

  • Avatar
    August 5, 2018 3:59 pm

    Looks amazing! Zucchini flowers are some of my favorite things about summer!! Delicious summer pasta

    • Jacqui
      August 9, 2018 7:40 am

      Thanks so much dear Camila! Zucchini flowers are among my favourite summer eats too!!

  • Avatar
    August 5, 2018 3:53 pm

    I love soo much the sound of this recipe – not easy to get the courgette flowers over here but I love and use regularly the baby courgettes – they sooooo goood!! Yumm, yumm. Recipe saved!

    • Jacqui
      August 9, 2018 7:42 am

      Grazie cara Ramona! Zucchini flowers can be a bit of an expensive delicacy in some places and difficult to find, unless you grow your own zucchini!! But, I agree baby courgettes are soo good!

  • Avatar
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt
    August 5, 2018 3:37 pm

    This is so lovely!! What a great use for zucchini flowers and the saffron is such a lovely unexpected addition. Can’t wait to try.

  • Avatar
    Neli Howard
    August 5, 2018 2:12 pm

    Oh my! That looks so tender. This is really very tasty! Perfectly! Thanks for the recipe! I want to try it!

  • Avatar
    August 5, 2018 9:49 am

    What a wonderful dish. We grow our own zucchini but for some reason this year weve had no male flowers and so no pollination! We have to eat our zucchini while they are still small and before they abort. This looks like the perfect way to eat them.

  • Avatar
    Stephanie Simmons
    August 5, 2018 3:31 am

    This looks like such a fun healthy summer meal! I love zucchini flowers – need to try to get my hands on some before the season is over!

  • Avatar
    August 4, 2018 1:18 pm

    I love pasta and veggies, this dish is absolutely gorgeous!

  • Avatar
    August 4, 2018 10:06 am

    The addition of courgette flowers in cooking is a new thing to me. This is so interesting, thanks for this idea. Definitely trying this recipe.

  • Avatar
    August 3, 2018 11:12 pm

    This looks really tasty, who doesn’t love a good courgette in pasta, I like the flavor profile you put together!

  • Avatar
    August 2, 2018 9:07 pm

    I’ve never had zucchini flowers. I’m going to have to grow them next year just so I can try this recipe, I’ve always wanted to try them.

  • Avatar
    August 2, 2018 12:40 am

    I have yet to try zucchini flowers. Such a gourmet item…and it looks amazing. I am on the hunt for these. Maybe I will be lucky to find some at the Farmer’s Market on the weekend. This would be a great dish to serve to guests.

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    August 1, 2018 10:57 pm

    I’ve never cooked with zucchini flowers and I can’t wait to try this recipe out.

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    August 1, 2018 1:18 pm

    One thing I actually liked when I was in Albania this Summer, was in fact filled zucchini flowers battered and then fried. So, so tasty! I’ve been wanting to make them at home, but I can’t seem to find zucchini flowers here. But if I do, I will definitely try to make your recipe too, I think it looks divine, and I love the addition of saffron!

  • Avatar
    July 25, 2018 12:54 pm

    Zucchini flowers are my favourite! I love to use them as much as possible and whenever they are in season. They are incredible!

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