Cucuzza: the big Italian squash

While shopping yesterday I came across something that brought back childhood food memories, cucuzza. My mother used to cook cucuzza in a thin tomato sauce. It was served alone, as a vegetable side dish, or with pasta.

What is cucuzza? The best translation I could find for cucuzza is BFS- big f@#king squash.

Cucootz or googutz is a slang term meaning big squash. It is not something you want to be called by an Italian, among other things.

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Cucuzza range in size from 18-36 inches.

Cucuzza range in size from about 18 inches to 36 inches long. They must be peeled. The seeds are soft to hard. If the seeds are firm to the tooth, they should be removed as they can be bitter.

The cucuzza offers a slightly sweet mild flavor and a fairly firm texture when cooked. It has more moisture than zucchini.

Cucuzza has a bland flavor when raw. Cooking brings out the sweetness.

Herbs, spices, and flavor components that marry well with cucuzza are curry, basil, oregano, chili powder, parsley, and garlic.

Cucuzza originated in Italy. American farms that grow cucuzza use seeds that originated in there, especially southern Italy and Sicily.

Food travels. Cucuzza can be found in many cuisines, especially in southern Asian cuisine.

This recipe is from memory, that is, taste memory. The ingredients are simple. The preparation is not difficult.

Recipe:

Olive oil- enough to coat bottom of pan.

1- Fresh bay leaf

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

1- medium yellow onion diced

4-5 cloves of garlic diced

1- medium sized shallot finely diced

Kosher or coarse sea salt

Coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp. Oregano or dried Italian herbs.

1- 14 oz. can dice tomatoes

2- 15 oz. cans tomato sauce

2- cucuzza, 24-36 inches long

Directions:

Heat olive oil on medium heat with bay leaf and red pepper flakes.

Lower heat to simmer or lowest setting.

Add diced onion, shallot, and garlic.

Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer and sweat until all are translucent.

Add oregano by crushing it between the palms of your hands.

Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Raise heat to medium.

When sauce starts to bubble lower heat to simmer.

Simmer for ten minutes.

Slice the cuucuzza into manageable pieces.

Peel off the skin.

Slice in half lengthwise and then slice into bite sized pieces.

Add cucuzza to sauce.

Cover and simmer until cucuzza is fork tender.

Taste and adjust seasoning and flavorings

Remove bay leaf.

Serve as a side dish, over pasta, or as a main course. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

For more depth of flavor, you can saute the cucuzza, then sweat the onions, garlic, and shallots.

Another method of cooking is to make the sauce. Place cucuzza in the sauce and bake in the oven uncovered (350 F) until fork tender.

The sauce should be thin. If you want deeper flavor add a tablespoon of tomato sauce or teaspoon of tomato powder (found in spice or specialty shops).

There are some very strange people in this world who have perverted eating habits. They do not like pieces of garlic in their food. If you are one of those or are cooking for one of those degenerate masticating fiends, just crush the cloves of garlic. Remove them with the bay leaf.

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    Peter Bella

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