Tag Archives: Cucuzza

Pasta and zucchini

Zucchini with Pasta Made Two Ways

Zucchini with Pasta Made Two Ways

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog  Zucchini with Pasta  is a classic combination, either alone or paired with  fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and basil for a summer vegetable treat!

Zucchini and My Italian-American Gardening Family 

Growing up as I did with two Italian-American parents means that  to me, summertime will always be the time for gardening—and enjoying the fresh vegetables and fruits of that garden!

As I’ve written in my last blog under Italian and Italian-American Recipes, both sides of my Italian family have established summer vegetable gardens here in America.  My grandfather was a master gardener, and used knowledge he brought over from Sicily to create his perfect garden in a very small patch of land in Brooklyn, New York.

Most of my grandfather’s yard was dedicated to all kinds of  vegetables and fruits, perfectly staked  in neat rows so that no space was lost on his small plot of land. There were all kinds of tomatoes, both large and small, and green and red peppers of all types.  Vines of zucchini, or in Italian, molte zucchine, were somehow trained to grow  between the rows of tomatoes and peppers.  My grandfather grew the “typical” dark green zucchini found in all American supermarkets today, harvested at about 5-6″ long.

Recently, though, I’ve learned of a squash called cucuzza, which is so popular in the south of Italy that the word cucuzza has replaced the word  zucchine when people talk about squash grown in the summertime.  Read below for some “fun facts” about this type of squash and Italian-American culture.

Zucchini and Italian Culture

Cucuzza – The Famous Italian Summer Squash

Image from www.specialtyproduce.com

A famous long, thin, light green squash that is harvested in the summer from southern Italy and Sicily is known as “cucuzza.”  Cucuzza (pronounced “goo-gooz” in  Sicilian dialect) typically grows from 1 to 3 feet. Unlike a true summer squash, the skin from this squash must be peeled before cooking.  There is a well-known Sicilian proverb that states, “Cucinala come vuoi, sempre cucuzza è!” meaning, “However you cook it, it’s still just squash!” 

Cucuzza is also used as an endearing term for a young girl in a 1950’s Italian novelty song sung by Louis Prima called, “My Cucuzza.”  He sings about the vegetable, Cucuza grows in Italy down on the farm.  It’s something like zucchini flavored with Italian charm… I call my girl cucuzza because she’s as sweet as can be.”  To hear the song sung by Louis Prima in it’s entirety, click this My Cucuzza link.


Zucchini with Pasta Made Two Ways

To continue with the story of my family, while my grandfather was busy gardening, my grandmother was busy in the kitchen!  She created wonderful dishes from zucchini, which was a favorite summer vegetable in my mother’s house and is in my house today.

Pasta with zucchini and fresh tomatoes and basil is a classic Italian combination that my grandmother and mother made frequently. In this dish, chopped tomatoes are cooked in olive oil just to soften, and left chunky, which is different than the more usual pureed tomato sauce of winter in Southern Italian households. In the recipe below, I’ve used bow-tie pasta, which makes it fun for kids of all ages to eat their zucchini! Note that basil, not oregano,  is the herb of choice for any type of pasta and “fresh tomato sauce” combination.

My mother recently remembered my grandmother’s summer version of   “Spaghetti Aglio Olio,” or spaghetti with garlic in olive oil, which was modified in the summer to include zucchini slices fried gently in the garlic-flavored olive oil until a light golden color.  I made this simple recipe for my family’s dinner one recent summer evening, and topped with Parmesan cheese it quickly disappeared.

Yes, with the zucchini and pasta combination recipes that I share below, children of all ages will love to eat their vegetables! I hope your family enjoys this zucchini recipes as much as my family does!  -Kathryn Occhipinti


Zucchini with Pasta and  Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Zucchini and Pasta
Zucchini with Bow Tie Pasta and Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

3 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
2 medium-size zucchini, chopped coarsely
4 plumb tomatoes, chopped coarsely
1 large bunch of fresh basil,
leaves stripped from stems and hand-torn
1 box (1 lb.) bow-tie pasta, cooked al-dente
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

 

Method

Set a pot of water on the stove to boil for making the spaghetti.  When the water does boil, add salt, cover, bring to boil again, and then uncover and add bow-tie pasta. Stir pasta, cover and bring to a boil again. Take cover off and stir.  Let the pasta cook until al-dente (“to the tooth”), or slightly firm, stirring occasionally,  while you cook the zucchini below.

The rest of the dish is made in a large frying pan with high sides.

Add enough olive oil to almost cover the frying pan and then heat gently on medium-high heat.

Add chopped garlic and let soften.

Add chopped zucchini and a sprinkle of salt, and let soften, stirring frequently, so the zucchini does not burn, but browns lightly.

Add chopped tomatoes and freshly torn basil leaves, and stir.

Add a bit of the pasta water and turn the heat down to simmer.  Let the sauce cook for 10 – 15 minutes, until all vegetables have softened, but are still a bit firm, stirring frequently.

When the “sauce” is ready, drain the pasta and add to the frying pan.  Depending on the size of zucchinis and tomatoes you use, you may have a little less or more sauce than needed for 1 lb. of pasta.  Add “enough” pasta to the frying pan so when it is mixed it is coated lightly with the “sauce.”

Add the coarsely grated Parmesan cheese and mix again.  Salt to taste.

Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese on the side and enjoy!

Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see me actively making this zucchini and pasta dish.  A delicious dinner or side dish will be ready in no time with this classic Italian combination!

View this post on Instagram

Zucchini and Tomatoes with Pasta. Use your fresh garden vegetables to make this easy and delicious authentic Italian pasta dish. Your kids will love eating their vegetables! Use 3 cloves of garlic, 2 medium size zucchini, 4 plum tomatoes, fresh basil leaves torn, and 1 lb. box of bowtie pasta. 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, salt to taste. Add salted pasta water as vegetables cook and then after adding pasta, as needed……………………………………….. #osnap #italianstyle #italianfood #pasta #pastaandzucchini #pastaandzucchinis #zucchiniandpasta #zucchinirecipes #andzucchini #zucchinipasta #pastasitalianas #foodblogger #foodie #italianstyle🇮🇹 #italiancooking #italianrecipe🇮🇹 #Italianrecipes #italianvegetables #italianvegetarian #vegetarianitalian @niafitalianamerican @osia_su @chicagolanditalians

A post shared by Kathryn Occhipinti (@conversationalitalian.french) on

 

 


 

Zucchini with Spaghetti Aglio Olio
(Zucchini with Spaghetti in Garlic and Olive Oil)

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

 

3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 to 4  medium sized zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
(cut the zucchini cross-wise from one end to the other,
as in photo of cucuzza above)
1 lb. of spaghetti
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Method

Set a pot of water on the stove to boil for making the spaghetti.  When the water does boil, add salt, cover, bring to boil again, and then uncover and add spaghetti. Stir spaghetti, cover and bring to a boil again. Take cover off and stir.  Let the spaghetti cook until al-dente (“to the tooth”), or slightly firm, stirring occasionally,  while you cook the zucchini below.

The rest of the dish is made in a large frying pan with high sides.

Add enough olive oil to almost cover the frying pan and then heat gently on medium-high heat.

Add the crushed garlic cloves and let soften to flavor the oil.

Add sliced zucchini, spreading over the pan in one layer, so the zucchini can fry in the oil evenly.  You will need to do this in 2 or more batches if cooking more zucchini slices than the size pan you have can accomodate.

After a about 5 minutes, when the zucchini rounds have softened, turn and let the other side soften.

Continue to cook until zucchini rounds have shrunk and turned a light, golden brown.

When the zucchini is ready, drain the spaghetti and put into a large serving bowl.

Add the fried zucchini from the pan,  without draining the olive oil from the zucchini rounds. Mix. Add additional olive oil from the pan as needed to coat the spaghetti lightly and evenly.

Add the coarsely grated Parmesan cheese and mix again.  Salt to taste.

Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese on the side and enjoy!

Check out my Instagram site (soon to be posted) if you’d like to see me actively making zucchini and spaghetti aglio olio.  A delicious dinner or side dish will be ready in no time with this classic Italian combination!

— by Kathryn Occhipinti

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

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Zucchini with Pasta Two Ways