Growing Cucuzza in your backyard .. An Italian-American time-honored Tradition
PASTA con CUCUZZA
Pasta & Gagootz !!!
Pasta & Gagootz is a long time favorite with the Bellino Family. Cucuzza, a.k.a. Gagootz is oh so Sicilian, and third only to Eggplant (Melanzane) and Artichokes, as the most popular and loved vegetable of all. Well yes there’s tomatoes and we love cauliflower quite a bit too, but Gagootz? Yes Cucuzza is the big Italian Squash eaten mainly by Italian-Americans, and mostly those of Sicilian and Neapolitan origins. Even in the Italian-American community, still not many know of this amazing Baseball Bat sized vegetable that most Sicilians do. So yes Cucuzza is ours, we Sicilians and other Southern Italian peoples, but not everyone you see. Hey, we love to share, but once in a while we like to keep a few things to ourselves. Doesn’t everyone? My mom used to make this often, along with Zuppa di Cucuzza from her mothers traditional recipes from Lercara Friddi. The recipe is oh so Sicilian, tasty and whimsical too. If you make it, you and your guest are sure to love it, as we Bellino’s have for more than 100 years now. Mangia Bene!
RECIPE : PASTA GAGOOTZ
1 large Cucuzza (Italian Squash)
1 medium Onion, peeled and chopped
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
4 cloves Garlic, peeled and sliced
1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 pound Green Beans, cleaned and cut in half
¼ cup fresh Basil leaves torn in half
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Peel the Cucuzza with a vegetable peeler and scoop out an large seeds if there are any and discard. Cut the Cucuzza (Gagootz) into 1 ½” pieces.
Place Cuccuzza and olive oil in a 6-quart pot and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Add onion and cook for 4 minutes more.
Add garlic and cook on low flame for 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute while stirring.
Add tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
While the sauce is simmering cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and put in the pot of sauce after it has been simmering for 12 minutes. Continue cooking for a total cooking time of 40-45 minutes for the sauce.
Add basil and cook two minutes.
Cook pasta according to directions on package. When finished cooking, drain the pasta in a colander, reserving about 7 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.
Put the pasta back in the pot it cooked in. Drizzle on a little olive oil and mix. Add 1/3 of the sauce to the pot with the pasta and mix.
Divide the pasta among four plates. Top each plate of pasta with a little more of the sauce. Give a plate to each guest, pass the grated cheese and enjoy.
Pasta Gagootz …
Excerpted from GRANDMA BELLINO’S ITALIAN COOKBOOK by Daniel Bellino Z