A cucuzza, or gagootz, is either a really big Italian squash, or a derogatory term for a really big Italian goofball. So searching for one to stuff was somewhat of a private joke, Well, not so private anymore, is it?
Usually, at Summer's end, in every garden there's that last zucchini, hanging on the vine, soaking up the last of the sun's rays, growing fat and happy. I wanted that one.
My search ended at the Temescal Farmers Market on Sunday. My gagootz was there waiting for me. It wasn't as large as I'd hoped for, but at 12" was big enough to satisfy myself and my hubby as a side dish. (Why is this sounding erotic?) I escorted my bella home singing this song:
And here's what I did with my Italian Beauty.
- 1 large zucchini
- 1/2 yellow onion, small dice
- 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
- 1 small tomato, diced
- a large handful of fresh baby spinach
- 2 TBS fresh parsley, finely cut
- 1/4 Cup fresh basil, chiffonade
- 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
- 1 Cup parmesan, shredded or shaved
- 1/2 Cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 Cup Italian style seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 egg
Preheat oven to 375. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat and add the diced onions. Scoop out the inside flesh of the zucchini with a spoon. Chop into small pieces and add to the skillet along with the garlic and diced tomatoes. Stir continuously until mixture softens and add a splash of balsamic. Continue cooking for a few minutes until the mixture caramelize. a bit. Chop it up with your spoon, and add the spinach, parsley, and basil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool. Add the 1/2 cup parmesan, 1/2 Cup mozzarella, and the bread crumbs. Mix well. Beat the egg with a fork and add to the mixture, blending it well. Pack the mixture into the hollowed out zucchini and top with the reserved parmesan cheese. Place the stuffed zucchini in a lasagna pan or large baking dish, whichever it fits into. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes to melt the cheese, longer if you like it crispy.
This filling is sweet and satisfying. The egg binds it all together and creates a nice texture, like bread pudding. In the past, I've also incorporated Italian sausage into my stuffing. If you like to do this, start with sauteing a couple of sweet Italian style sausages, casings removed, until crumbled. Discard most of the oil, but reserve a little to replace the olive oil in this recipe and continue with the onions. Follow the rest of the recipe as written. Mangia Bene, Cucuzza Bella!