Curcuzza Side Dish: Delish

A zillion years ago my best friend’s mom, Sparky, used to grow these long skinny Italian squashes on long string trellis’ in her tiny back yard.  They lived in a narrow row house in Harrisburg so space was at a premium.  Sparky was 100 percent Italian and a great cook. She used to make this simple but delish side dish of small cubes of curcuzza squash cooked in tomato sauce. I never had access to this old time variety until I saw them at my sister’s garden last summer and searched until I found seeds at superseeds.com.  They go by the name of trombolini heirloom Italian summer squash.  You can pick them from small to very large sized.  They can be allowed to harden and dry and then used like winter squash particularly as butternut squash. They grow on long vines and are really cool looking. So this summer they are growing wildly and I’m learning how to cook with these unusual squash fruits.

 

The other week I made a delightful sauté. Success led me to feel I should try the special dish Sparky made all those years ago. It was simple actually, with just a few ingredients and some loving attention.

I strongly suggest you find trombolini squash but in a pinch any other summer squash will do; just cook it for a far shorter time.

trombolini squash with sauce and sausage

Sparky’s Curcuzza in Red Sauce

2  Tbsp.  EVOL

½ cup diced yellow onion

3-4 cups cubed trombolini squash

1 large garlic clove

1 15 ounce can tomato sauce; good quality

2  Tbsp. dry red wine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan, add onion, cook about 4 minutes until it starts to soften.  Add cubed squash, cook 5 minutes, add minced garlic clove, cook one minute.  Add tomato sauce. Put 2 tbsp. red wine in can to rinse it out and add to pan.  If you don’t like wine; use water.  Cover and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until squash is cooked but still holds it’s shape. Stir it a few times to make sure it is not sticking or burning. If you used zucchini your cook time will be more like ten minutes.  I add salt before the 30 minute cooking; maybe ½ tsp of it and a few grinds of my pepper grinder.

Serve over hot spaghetti pasta.  You can serve it with some Italian sausage or fried eggplant or top your plate with grated fresh Parmesan cheese if desired. My pasta was gf of course.  This can be made vegan, gf, a side to a meat entree or just a delightful snack. Manga!trombolini squash with sauce

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Ravioli with Greens

After a busy day everyone wants a quick and tummy filling meal.  Mine has to be gluten free.  I was looking for a meal that would use up some plain frozen raviolis I bought at Wegmans. They are quite tasty but they needed a sauce, some veggies and a protein component.  I had some unopened flower shoots, tender stems and leaves from a second year collard plant. So I went for it.  T hen I made it another time; first with canned chopped clams added and next with freshly fried chunks of chicken breast.  Both were delicious and so simple to throw together.  I had the clam version with parmesan cheese freshly grated on top.  Perfect quick supper for one.

You could use broccoli rabe or broccolini for this recipe. I happened to have all these flower shoots on my collard plant just begging to be used in a creative and tasty way. This is a riff off my homemade gnocchi with clams and bitter greens recipe I love but heck of a lot quicker to make.

 

Angie’s Ravioli with Greens

Serves one

Ingredients

4-5 frozen cheese ravioli

A handful of broccoli rabe (1/4 to 1/3 of a pound) or collard bud stems or broccolini

1 tbsp. EVOL

1 garlic clove

½ small can chopped clams or ¼ lb chicken breast

2 tbsp rice flour if using chicken

A pinch of red pepper flakes

1 tsp. butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Directions

Put on a quart of salted water to boil. When boiling drop in the ravioli and cook them about 6 minutes; 1 minute less than the bag says is a good plan.  Drain well, set them aside to add later and try to save a ¼ cup of the liquid for later.

In a mini wok or sauté pan heat the EVOL, if you are making the chicken cut it in small chunks, dust in the flour until well coated, and fry 4-7 minutes until golden on more than one side and done.  If they are fat chunks they will take longer.  Sometimes I flatten chicken breast chunks a bit to help them fry faster.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add the minced garlic clove, stir. Add the broccoli rabe and the red pepper flakes, stir and cook about 4 minutes until well wilted. Add the drained cooked ravioli and clams or chicken chunks you cooked earlier.  Stir well, cook a minute or two.  Add the butter and toss once.  Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and serve.  Enjoy!

Italian Sausage and Pepper Spaghetti: Perfetto!

Sometimes necessity is the mother of tasty invention in my kitchen! This is a “what’s in the fridge” post.  I had some nice looking organic Italian pork sausage in long sandwich links.  I had a red pepper and some onions and a can of crushed tomatoes.  I wanted to make a pasta dish but was craving sausage with peppers and onions.  This is my invention: sausage and pepper spaghetti.  Sounds basic but I never thought of combining the concepts of that old favorite: sausage with onions and peppers with a fairly traditional red spaghetti sauce.  This recipe marriage turned out just delicious. Plus it was relatively quick and easy too. My kind of recipe…

I made sure to not overcook the sauce so it was rather fresh flavored and I cooked the pasta for a couple minutes in the sauce and sausage mixture.  I cut my onions and peppers into two sizes to give variety in the chunky sauce.

Of course, if you would like to use another protein like chicken sausage, go for it. This is not one of those recipes where you have to follow the instructions and ingredient list perfectly.  Be creative and use what you have on hand. Go with the freshest and best quality ingredients available, don’t stray too far from the concept and it will be hard to go wrong with this entrée.

I honestly don’t think gluten free spaghetti could have been any better than this tasted. To put it another way, I didn’t miss wheat based pasta when I chowed down on this homey meal.  I would serve it without hesitation to my wheat loving family knowing they would enjoy every bite just like me.

Here are all my cooking pictures; sometimes it is annoying when they are all spaced out in the recipe; clumping them together for your convenience!

 

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Angie’s Spaghetti with Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients

1 lb fresh Italian sausage

1-2 tbsp. of EVOL

1 large yellow onion, sliced in long strips, half diced

1 large red pepper, sliced into long strips and half diced

2 garlic cloves, one minced and one sliced

1 tsp. dried basil

½ tsp. dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp. white wine

Directions

I used a large cast iron frying pan; I know what you are thinking! Cast iron and tomatoes…not a great choice….well it fries stuff so well and I didn’t cook the sauce really long – so I think it was okay to use cast iron. But, in any case, use a large pan; 12 to 14 inch with at least three inch sides to hold all that sauce.  Heat the pan; add the olive oil, when it is hot put in the sausage links.  Brown on two opposite sides; about 4 minutes a side.  Add the onions, stir it up and put the links on top of the onions.  Cook 3 minutes, add the sliced/chopped pepper and stir well.  Cook a minute or two, add the garlic, cook one minute, stir it up and add the canned crushed tomato and the herbs and stir again. I rinsed the tomato can out with the white wine and poured it in.  Cook on low heat for 20 minutes.

Make the pasta, I used GF Barilla, salt the water well and stir it almost constantly while it boils. I undercooked it a minute.  Drain quickly, return to the pasta pot, pour in the sauce and sausage and cook 2 minutes.  Be sure to stir it several times as the sauce blends into the pasta so it doesn’t stick on the bottom.  Taste to be sure the pasta is done and adjust the seasoning; salt and pepper to your liking.

Serve with some freshly shredded real parmesan cheese on top; much better than that canned pre-grated cheese. Perfection!

Bellissimo at Bella’s

Dinner out as a celiac is often fraught, cross contamination makes it so easy to ingest gluten and it is so hard to find memorably good  gluten free food.  This weekend we went to a restaurant where I have eaten safely four times in the past two years plus it is close by, no need to travel a distance for a decent meal.  Where you ask? Bella’s, right here on Main Street in Hellertown.  I have written about them before but they don’t know my face so I get the same good service as any other patron. This meal was definitely worth writing about.

bella sign

I usually get their ziti and once I tried the ravioli, both on the special gluten free menu I always ask for.  All were excellent. This time I did the unthinkable; I ordered off the nightly special!  Our very friendly and incredibly accommodating waitress went and asked the chef if he could make it with gluten free pasta and flour free as to the sauce.  Chef was willing and I waited with much anticipation.  Eating off the nightly special menu is something I haven’t been able to do in over two years.

I enjoyed a tasty house salad full of baby spinach leaves while we waited for our entrees.  Joe had a cup of soup with spinach and tortellini.  He said it was very good.  I sat dreaming of the day when I can buy gf tortellini in the pasta aisle and make my own version.

The atmosphere at Bella’s was enjoyable: their decorations were pleasing to my eyes, agreeable soft lighting, tables not too close and the Sinatra was quite soothing.  It was not loud in the dining room but I experienced a good buzz of laughter and talk; the vocal music of a restaurant full of happy customers!

salmon with shrimp

I confess I forgot myself and ate some salmon and pasta before this picture was snapped.

 

Our entrees came.  Mine was glorious looking.  A salmon fillet covered with sautéed red onions, fresh tomato and smoked mozzarella cheese.  It was resting in a sea of ziti with a light wine sauce with large and small shrimp swimming around (well, maybe the shrimp were just laying in it but I like to have fun with words!)  The menu didn’t mention them. Bonus!!

I dove in and the flavors were fantastic, the buttery wine sauce played oh so well with the salmon and its toppings.  But wait; I couldn’t find any avocado on my plate.  That was what had attracted me to this dish in the first place.  If you expect something that was mentioned in the menu then I feel you have the right to speak up and politely ask for it.  So I did and shortly a young man in an apron with a bowl of avocado slices showed up. He introduced himself as the chef; he was full of apologies for forgetting avocado on my dish and placed several slices on my salmon. How cool is that? A chef that cares enough to personally fix an issue right at table, Wow!

With the avocado it was even more amazing in the flavor department.  I declined to finish the large serving; saved some pasta and shrimp for lunch the next day.  Joe enjoyed his eggplant rolled and served in vodka sauce but I was just blown away by the complex flavors in my entree and that it was gluten free and whipped up that way especially for me.

Chalk up another safe meal for me at Bella’s.  I can’t wait to go back and try something else.   If you are celiac like me and dread meals out; this is the place to go.  Five times and never disappointed or glutened.  Perfect Italian and perfectly safe.