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

Smashing Summer Squash Saute

 

It is zucchini season and the deluge of large green baseball bat veggies has begun. I prefer them a bit more tender; picked well before they become gigantic. I like yellow crookneck squash as well, especially home grown and picked very tender.  You can get a yellow zucchini (absolutely there is such a thing!) at Giant Grocery stores and it looks great mixed with slices of green summer squash.  Then there are patty pan squash which are generally pale green and yes, shaped like a flying saucer.  Kinda different you might think but similar flavor to other summer squash.

You may think you know summer squash until you come across a tromboncino summer squash which is an Italian heirloom variety. It looks sort of like a zucchini and a gourd had a baby: it is pale green with a swollen end and long curvy stem. My sister grows them and I remember that my college roomie’s parents grew them up strings in their narrow back yard.  They have long vines like a gourd so a trellis works much better than just letting the vines sprawl. So, I bought a packet of the seeds from superseeds.com last winter. I have one vine at my house and one at a church community garden I administer. I picked my first one last weekend. It was 27 inches plus long not counting the curve; more like 30 inches if you ran a tape measure along the whole thing.

What to do with my lovely long squash? Bernie’s mom used to cook it in thin tomato sauce and some garlic. She called it a gourgutza! I call it tasty… I had a just picked Japanese eggplant, fresh basil in the garden and a red onion.  So I went with them as the other major components of my dish. A can of chopped tomatoes was added to create a fresh and un-homogenized sauce.  Finally, I had some red lentil rotini pasta from Aldi’s; been meaning to try it in something special. They all came together in a lovely fresh tasting one pan entree I know I will make again soon. Use what ever summer squash you have but don’t cut it thin; leave it chunky for this dish. If you ever get a tromboncini do give it a try; very tasty.

Angie’s Summer Squash Sauté

2 cups cubed or half round summer squash; cut thick; ½ inch diameter

1 Japanese eggplant

1/3 lb ground chicken or pork

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 15 oz can finely chopped tomatoes

8 or 9 fresh large basil leaves chopped fine

2 tbsp. dry white wine

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 1/3 cup dry rotini pasta; cook it until very al dente

Directions: Cut the eggplant on the diagonal into slices, cut into long strips; put in colander, sprinkle with sea salt, let drip for about 20 minutes, wipe clean with paper towel.

Heat your pan, I used my smaller wok. sauté the ground chicken in 1 tbsp. olive oil; pressing it down to a thin layer, brown and turn, add red onion, brown the meat on other side; chop up; cook about 5-7 minutes total until done; remove from pan and place in a bowl for later use.

Heat the salted water for the pasta and cook it while you are sautéing all the veggies. Reserve at least ½ cup of the cooking water to add back as needed to the final dish.

Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to the same pan, heat until fairly hot, add the eggplant. Cook on both sides, after a couple minutes on each side add ¼ cup water to keep it from sticking. As it cooks after the water goes in add the minced garlic and the summer squash. Cook 3-5 minutes more, while it cooks add the juice from the can of tomatoes. Stir occasionally to cook evenly and after a couple minutes add the can of drained tomatoes, a pinch of red pepper flakes and cover.  Let cook 4 or 5 minutes, add white wine, cook 2 more minutes until squash is barely fork tender. Add cooked pasta, the meat and red onion mixture and then the finely chopped basil, cook one minute, taste and add some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to your personal taste. If it seems dry add some of the pasta water. Serve immediately.

It was still very tasty the next day. I added a touch more of the pasta cooking water when I put my leftovers away in the refrigerator, to keep things moist. The red lentil pasta did not get crunchy or soggy as many gf pastas do. I don’t know if Aldi’s still carries it as their gf stuff changes constantly.  But if I see it there I am definitely buying more.  Enjoy!