My Spaghetti Cucuzza recipe highlights a great ingredient you can now be found at markets around the world — cucuzza squash. There is a bit you need to know about Cucuzza. Let’s start with the fact that it is really a gourd, not a squash. It is from Southern Italy — most commonly in Sicily. There is a song about Cucuzza. Cucuzza is an Italian nickname for “girlfriend”. They grow on beautifully long on vines around homes in Sicily — appearing to be half a landscape plant and half an easy garden plant. They are a bit beloved in Italy. Lastly, in my opinion I think what you most need to know is Cucuzza is great with pasta.
It can get a bit confusing when you look for cucuzza. While they are famous for being incredibly long (longer than a meter), you are likely to find a much shorter variety in your market. As my favorite produce supplier said, “They may grow nice and long around a home in Sicily, but those long ones are a real pain in a field.” The long ones are fun to show off in the kitchen, but both taste great. Think of cucuzza as a zucchini with better taste and texture. Or perhaps better expressed in the lyrics by Louis Prima “It’s something like zucchini / Flavored with Italian charm”.
My Cucuzza, Cucuzza BellaMy Cucuzza
She’s my pizza pie with lotsa mozzarella
With Cucuzza, I wanna be
‘Cause Cucuzza is so crazy over me
Cucuzza grows in Italy
They love it on the farm
It’s something like zucchini
Flavored with Italian charm
by: Louis Prima
In the Style of Spaghetti alla Nerano
With pasta, you can use Cucuzza any way you would use zucchini. But I have a favorite method.
I have developed my Spaghetti Cucuzza recipe in the style of the now-popular spaghetti alla Nerano made famous by Stanley Tucci’s In Search of Italy series. I slice the cucuzza into thin slices and lightly fry them in the same manner. Accompany with a nice bit of pepper and top with a nice bit of Pecorino Cheese and you have a wonderful summer dish.
Notes on Technique
Frying the Cucuzza
If you are familiar with the discussion of spaghetti alla Nerano, you are aware of the care and details, and differing opinions, on the frying of the zucchini. Since the Cucuzza is a bit more flavorful than zucchini we do not need to be quite as concerned about how we do it. Plenty of olive oil is needed, but we will slice the cucuzza and simply fry the slices to a light golden brown on each side.
One of the big reveals of the Tucci discussion of the spaghetti alla Nerano is that the zucchini is cooked ahead of time. In the series, it is cooked a day ahead. While cooking that far ahead is unnecessary for this dish, you may find frying the cucuzza a few hours ahead of time to be very convenient. Just remember to drain the oil from the cucuzza well and reserve some of the garlic-infused frying oil for the final step.
Use of Garlic
Italian cooking does not use the amount of garlic we are often led to believe. In this dish, the garlic is browned in the oil and removed before frying the cucuzza.
Notes on Ingredients
Long or Short Cucuzza
Both the long and short varieties work well. I have noticed no difference in the taste. I do however find the skin of the short variety a bit thick. It is not a significant issue, just make sure to cut the slices thin enough.
I find Pecorino Cheese perfect for this dish. However, feel free to use Parmigiano if that is what you have. Regardless use a good bit along with a good bit of pepper. The dish needs the accents.
My final addition to the dish is Pancetta. This is optional if you prefer a vegetarian dish.
- 400g of rough durum wheat spaghetti
- ½ long Sicilian cucuzza (or 1 medium cucuzza)
- 2 cloves of Italian garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Ample chili or black pepper
- Chopped parsley
- Sea salt
- Ample Grated Pecorino Cheese
- Pancetta, chopped (optional, skip and it is vegetarian)
- Wash and cut the squash into rounds, about ⅛ inch (3mm thick), without removing the peel. If using the thicker variety, you will need to quarter the slices.
- Heat plenty of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan (fill bottom plus a bit more), cook the whole garlic until it has browned, and remove it and discard.
- Add the courgette slices and let them color on both sides -- roughly 4-5 minutes per side. Once light golden brown, place to rest on a sheet of paper. Pour off much of the frying oil. Salt the squash while it cools. (This step may be done several hours in advance.)
- Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted water, drain the pasta. Reserve a small amount of the pasta water. Heat the oil and brown the pancetta. Sauté the pasta in the pan with the reserved squash cooking oil, and browned pancetta. Add black pepper or chili pepper, a sprinkling of chopped parsley, and ¾ of the fried squash, sauté everything with a touch of the pasta water to create a light sauce.
- Serve hot, decorating with the remaining slices on top along with plenty of grated pecorino,
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 394Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 751mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 5gSugar: 3gProtein: 18g
Calculated Nutrition is estimated.