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

Spicy Baby Eggplants and Pasta

This post is a slightly altered version of one I shared  two years ago for my friend Diane, queen of eggplants!  We share garden space at our church garden.  She really knows how to grow eggplants, dozens on a single plant every year.

Let me share my favorite method for dealing with those small eggplants you find yourself with when the first big frost hits your garden.  I pick them the night before no matter how small and this is how we use them in the best way possible.  Grocery stores usually have them in the fall if you are not a gardener.

I originally created this for the slow cooker using a base recipe from a friend’s Italian mom but this latest version was made on the stove top.  I really love being able to turn on my crock pot and walk away for four hours.  Still, sometimes you need dinner in an hour so here is the latest and quickest version.  It is perfect with gluten free ziti or spaghetti.

If you don’t have baby eggplants I think you could use smaller eggplants cut into halves.  This picture isn’t that pretty; a collapsed and well cooked eggplant is kinda ugly but you gotta love that cheese on top; good quality freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  I served it with penne as usual for the first time I enjoyed a plate of this spicy treat and with spaghetti squash tonight which was surprisingly good.  Hadn’t had that in many years.  Two of them were gifted to me last month; finally made half of one.  Nuked it in microwave for 15 minutes; cut, remove seeds; cut down on big plate, add a bit of water for steam effect.

forgotten-kisses-and-spicy-eggplant-002

Spicy Baby Eggplants

Ingredients

7-10 small eggplants from tiny up to about six inches long

1-2 ounces hard Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp EVOL

1 32 oz can crushed tomato

1 large carrot in rounds

½ tsp smoked paprika

¼  tsp. red pepper flakes

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. sea salt

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup oil cured black olives

1-2 tbsp. capers

Directions:

Cut the Parmesan cheese into tiny wedges.  Trim off the top cap of the eggplants.  Cut 3-4 slashes in the side of each eggplant going in the direction from the cap to the bottom. Put a wedge of cheese into each deep slash.  I only put 1-slashes in tiny eggplants, 3 in bigger ones and 4 in the largest eggplants.  Heat 1-2 tbsp. EVOL in a large heavy sauce pot.  Add the onions and saute a couple minutes.  Add the minced garlic, stir for a minute.  Then add in the tomato sauce and carrot rounds.  Heat up and add the eggplants and the herbs/spices. Heat to a bubble and add the olives, and capers.  Cover and cook on low for 40 minutes stirring every few minutes to keep the sauce from sticking to the pot’s bottom.  Cook until the eggplants can be easily pierced with a long fork.

Cook gluten free ziti, enough for how many people you are serving, and drain it one minute before the package directions say it will be done. Put it back in the now empty pot and add the eggplant mixture.  Cook a minute stirring it all around the pot.  This allows the ziti to soak up some of the sauce and get a great authentic flavor.

Serve in a low wide soup bowl as is or add a good grating of Parmesan cheese on top.  If you have some gluten free rolls or freshly baked gf bread – heaven!

Notes: I used olives with pits but if you can find them pitted; great! If you are an olive hater, leave them out but they really add to the flavor.  Or cook the dish with them and remove before eating; get that earthy salty flavor but it is more subtle without the actual olives on your plate.  Add more salt if you leave them out. If you like things really spicy double the red pepper flakes.  I found it just about right for me with a quarter teaspoon. Spaghetti squash works well in place of pasta.

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!

 

spagetti and raspberry muffins 013spagetti and raspberry muffins 014spagetti and raspberry muffins 015spagetti and raspberry muffins 016spagetti and raspberry muffins 018spagetti and raspberry muffins 019spagetti and raspberry muffins 020

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!