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Pre-race meal: zucchini carbonara

Pre-race meal: zucchini carbonara

I love food but I don’t usually hand-source all of the ingredients for my meals from various bakers, cheesemongers, and charcuteries. But my pre-race meal is a ritual, and it involves nearly all of those things.

It starts on a highly-trafficked street market in Amsterdam’s equivalent of the Latin Quarter. The Albert Cuyp market is a five-block stretch of the most ridiculous collection of articles you can imagine. From fresh Stroopwafels to raw fish to a new bike, you can find everything in this little crazy corner of the universe.

Tucked away between a few market stalls sits an unassuming little shop that, upon entering, you think is about to go out of business. There are eight or so white plates sitting starkly on display in one little glass-plated case, each housing about six pieces of raw pasta shapes.

But point to one and tell the lady behind the counter what you are cooking and for how many, and a Willy-Wonka-like wonderland springs to life, which involves rolls of dough being taken out of fridges, plopped into giant apparatuses, buttons pressed, motors whirring, and at the end of it all you get – exactly the right amount of fresh-off-the-presses pasta for your meal. My preference is always pappardelle, thick-cut strips of pasta that wrap beautifully around a fork.

The next stop is a vegetable stall, where I’ll pick up a leek and a courgette, winding my way through the expansive shops-within-shops bursting with fruits and veggies. And then on to the butcher, where a very French guy will impeccably slice (and even dice) just the right amount of pancetta. A quick swing by the shop for a bit of heavy cream (possibly my favorite part) and we’re off to the races (no pun intended).

This is a deliciously simple, unapologetically rich meal. It takes all of ten minutes to prepare from start to finish and it’s certainly the most delectable way I’ve found to calm those pre-race nerves.

RECIPE: zucchini carbonara (serve 2)


  • 2 knobs of pappardelle ( about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 leek or white onion
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half (personal preference)
  • 1/3 cup pancetta, diced
  • Butter, to taste
  • Fresh grated parmesan, to serve (optional)


  1. Set the pasta water to boil.
  2. Chop the zucchini and leek or onion and throw in a buttered pan, together with the pancetta. Allow to cook for 5 to 7 minutes until cooked through. Add the cream and allow to cook for a minute or two on very low heat.
  3. Throw the pasta in the pot and cook for 2 to 4 minutes if fresh, or according to package instructions if dried. Drain. Add a pat of butter.
  4. Either mix up the pasta and the sauce in the pot, or serve pasta and sauce separately and have everyone serve themselves.

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Written by Varia Makagonova.