Nicole returns to her Italian roots with cucuzza, an unusual squash-like vegetable that her great grandmother loved to cook.
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– – Cucuzza! You’re not gonna find these in the grocery store. You gotta know somebody. This is one of our family favorites. We make a dish that’s kinda like a soup, we call it cucuzza. It’s a squash similar in flavor to a zucchini, but a little spongier texture like an eggplant. There’s nothing else like it. Assuming you got the cucuzza hookup, this whole dish I’m about to make will cost less than $5. You know, food brings families together, that sounds so cheesy, but it is the case in my family. I’ve got a big Italian family and when we get together, no matter how big the house is, we’re only sitting in the kitchen eating food. And I love family recipes like this because there’s always a story behind it. My great-grandmother, this was one of her favorite dishes. She grew up an orphan and she would definitely have preferred this over a filet mignon any day. I was super pregnant and was not gonna be able to be in town for her actual 100th birthday so I had her pretend 100th birthday and we served this cucuzza and chocolate-covered cherries like the ones out of the box with the jelly stuff in it and that’s all. Those are like her favorite things. I hope you’re having a glass of wine with me. It’s part of the experience, I mean come on. So, anyway I’m gonna start like most Italian dishes with olive oil, garlic, and onion and there is no recipe for this, you know like most family recipes. I remember trying to follow my mom or grandmother around with my little notebook to be like okay, now what did you just put in there? Only they can make it the same every time. I’d love to hear about your family recipes. Comment below and let me know some of your favorites. Maybe I will tackle them one day. This kinda cooking smells like Sunday morning but everybody’s Sunday dinner is different. My husband’s family is like country cooking so they would have fried chicken, and beans, and rice, and gravy, and that kind of stuff. My family’s Sunday supper is something like this or some sort of pasta Italian dish. You may be watching thinking oh, that looks good but I’ll never be able to get one myself but I promise if you start talking about it and you know somebody who knows somebody that’s Italian, they’ll know where to get these. You can probably find the seeds on Amazon and plant your own. It won’t be the same as getting it from the cucuzza mafia. Alright, so the peel is tough. So, you do need to peel these. Every Italian has their own way to make cucuzza and I reference Italians only because I’ve never seen or heard of anyone other than an Italian making this dish. But it doesn’t discriminate, go gitchuwon. It’s gonna look like a lot but it cooks way down. If you’ve ever made cucuzza, I would love to hear how you make it. So, now I’m gonna cut it in big ol’ chunks. Add a little salt, I like a little crushed red pepper, and fresh basil but I know growing up that my grandmother, mom, everybody, would use the dried basil, so I’m gonna do a little bit of both. I gotta keep it authentic to my childhood. And then, to create my little broth, I’m gonna use a can of good ol’ cheap tomato sauce. Stayin’ true but I do have some fresh tomato sauce that I made. This was probably added in later in their recipe but I like to go ahead and get it down with the flavor. Most family recipes, I found, are unpretentious. They’re just humble and delicious. I don’t know why we try to take everything over the top these days. I’m adding like two quartz of water here because I want the broth really soupy. Oh, it’s starting to smell good! Sugar is a key ingredient. My grandmother is like the sugar police. Do not look for this recipe online, I will not post it. Maybe I’ll just add a couple of hunks of Parmesan cheese in there. Now, we just gotta walk away and let it do its thing, but don’t forget your wine. Back from the garden and another glass of wine. Ooh, it’s gonna be so good. This was always my job as a kid, to get the pasta in a towel, close it up, and just start crunching. It’s still kind of fun, even after all these years. You want little pieces, I don’t know why, because that’s the way my family did it. All that I’m giving you in this recipe is if you’re really going to go make this. Time to dish it up. I’m going to stir in a little fresh basil which may or may not have been part of the family recipe. Here we go, family recipes. The absolute finishing touch, Parmesan cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano, maybe another little crack of pepper. How good does this look? Now, this is my idea of comfort food. Cucuzza!