Tag Archives: Italian gardening

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!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Zucchini with Pasta Two Ways

Tomato, Mozzarella, and fresh basil salad

Caprese and Panzanella Salads with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Caprese and Panzanella Salads with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog  Caprese and Panzanella Salads  are what Italians make with their fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and basil for a summer salad treat!

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!

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.  As a small child, I knew that my fondest memories of summer would begin as I opened the large, decorative, black iron gate to enter what to me was a miraculous place – my grandparent’s a two story attached brick building that had my grandfather’s grape vines growing happily along the only free side.  Out back, there was a small cement landing where the family gathered amid large decorative clay pots of herbs, with a pergola for the ripened grapes to hang from and provide shade, of course!

The rest 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.  I loved picking the  perfectly red, vine-ripened tomatoes, green peppers and fresh, soft  purple figs to take home. Yes, my grandfather even managed to keep fig trees alive during the cold NYC winters by bundling the branches up a pail and covering them with blankets, just so we could enjoy baskets of fresh figs for the summer. And enjoy them we did!

While my grandfather was busy gardening, my grandmother was busy in the kitchen!  She created wonderful tomato salads  for summertime with our fresh tomatoes and our favorite herb—basil, with its leaves freshly  pinched off  right from the stem of the plant. Even today, the women in my family keep a small pot or glass with water by the kitchen window with cuttings of fresh basil ready to make a cool tomato Caprese salad or a Panzanella salad for lunch.

Caprese and Panzanella Salads

Making Caprese and Panzanella salads entails following a couple of simple methods, using whatever you have on hand, rather than following a strict recipe step by step. However, it is best to come as close as possible to the recommended ingredients, as the ingredients themselves will be the stars of each dish.

For the most mouth-watering Caprese salad imaginable, use fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and soft, fresh buffalo mozzarella.  Coarse sea salt adds extra flavor to the tomatoes. Top all with a generous drizzle of your favorite pungent or fruity, extra-virgin olive oil from Italy, rather than the a more bland olive oil that you would use for cooking on the stove top.

For Panzanella salad, which probably originated as a clever way to use up day-old, stale bread, be sure to use a crusty loaf of Italian bread and make sure it has time to dry out.  If you want, drizzle the bead with a little bit of olive oil and brown in the oven, either before or after cutting into cubes. The mozzarella for this salad should be a firm mozzarella, as it needs to be cubed and mixed in with the other ingredients.  I prefer my panzanella salad with hard cubes of bread; if you like, use the drippings from the fresh tomatoes to soften the bread.

And, of course, large, sweet, fresh basil leaves from the garden are an essential ingredient to both salads!

But whatever ingredients you have on hand, I’m sure you will enjoy these simple and refreshing tomato and basil salads on a hot summer day!  -Kathyn Occhipinti


Caprese Salad

 

Tomato, basil and mozzarella caprese salad
Italian Caprese Salad, with layers of tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves ready to share

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

3 large, vine-ripened tomatoes,
(each a different color to add interest;
heirloom tomatoes if desired)
Sea salt

Fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced
Large, whole, freshly picked basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil from Italy

 

Method

In an individual or large dish, create colorful layers of tomato slices (sprinkled with sea salt), mozzarella slices, and basil leaves.

If making in a large plate of Caprese salad for a crowd, have the tomato and mozzarella slices lengthwise once they are assembled and place a piece of mozzarella in the center to create a “flower” pattern, as in the picture above.  Decorate with extra basil.

Let sit for about 15 minutes for the tomato juices to develop. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Serve with Italian bread to mop up the tomato juices and enjoy!

Check out my Instagram post if you’d like to see me actively making a Caprese salad that can be shared by two people.  Remember, the correct choice of  ingredients is the key to this simple “salad.  A touch of sea-salt to bring the juices out of the tomatoes that provide the acid for the “vinaigrette” and a drizzle of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil makes an exquisite summertime treat!

 

View this post on Instagram

Caprese Salad: Let’s use our fresh basil (basilico), heirloom tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella with extra virgin olive oil to make this flavorful salad from the Italian island of Capri. The secret is very ripe tomatoes and a little sea salt to allow the tomato juices to escape and blend with the olive oil. Buon appetito! #osnap #chicagogardening #chicagogardener #chicagogarden #italyinamerica #italiangardenstyle #basil #basilico #basilico🌱 #basilsalad #tomatoandbasil #tomatobasil #basilandtomato #basilandtomatoes #freshbasilandtomatoes #buffalomozzarella #buffalomozzarellacheese #buffalomozzarellasalad @chicagolanditalians @niafitalianamerican @sons_of_italy #freshsummersalad #freshsummertomoatoes #italianfood #italiangardens #italianfood

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Panzanella Salad

Tomato and bread Panzanella salad
Italian Panzanella salad with halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh torn basil and bread

Ingredients
(Serves 1-4)

1-2 large, vine-ripened tomato, cut into small wedges
or several cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt

Mozzarella, cubed
Large, freshly picked basil leaves, torn
Dry Italian bread, cubed
(from the day before or browned in the oven)
Italian extra-virgin olive oil
Optional: Add 1/2 red onion, chopped coarsely
Optional: Drizzle with Italian red wine vinegar

Method

In a large dish, combine small wedges of fresh tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, torn basil leaves, and dry Italian bread.  If using the optional chopped red onion, it can be added at this point.

Mix gently.

Drizzle on extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with fresh sea salt to taste.

Mix again gently to combine all and enjoy!

Optional: Drizzle bread with olive oil and brown in oven prior to or after cutting and mixing with other ingredients.

Optional: After cutting tomatoes, put into a colander, add salt and mix. Put a bowl that contains the bread cubes under the colander.   Allow the bowls to stand at room temperature until tomato juices form and drip onto the bread to soften the bread.

Optional: Add a drizzle of  Italian red wine vinegar along with the olive oil.

— 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!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Caprese and Panzanella Salads with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil