This is a very special recipe for me. In 1993, I visited my relatives near Senigallia, Italy for the first time. Lena, my dad’s cousin Fulvio Becci’s wife, prepared this dish for me. I loved it then, but had never seen a recipe for it until I was back in Marche last fall and purchased a recent marchigiano cookbook. There, I rediscovered the detailed recipe (in Italian). I remember so clearly eating this dish way back then, and wondering how the heck they got the stuffing into the zucchini. Years later I found just the tool in a kitchen supply store in Los Angeles—it looks something like a double-long apple corer. It makes the recipe equally about the zucchini and the stuffing. Having found the tool and now finally the recipe, I was ready to replicate the delicious dish my cousin’s wife had prepared for me 22 years ago!
The really important trick to this recipe is selecting small and VERY straight zucchini so you can core them cleanly. I also have prepared them with this recipe in a non-traditional way, serving them over a bed of raw Sungold tomato sauce. The traditional version uses strained tomatoes added to the frying pan at the end in which the zucchini is simmered, which is what I have written below. Either way, this is a GREAT dish for summer.
This dish makes 8 appetizers or 4 main courses:
Ingredients and Directions:
• 8 small and very straight zucchini
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
• 1 @ 14.5 oz can good quality chopped tomatoes
• ½ cup dry white wine
• ½ lb ground veal
• 1 tbsp chopped parsley
• 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
• Salt and pepper
• Extra virgin olive oil
• 1 @ 750 gram box strained tomatoes (i.e., Pomi)
• Extra long vegetable corer (6-inch)
Trim the ends of the zucchini. Using the corer, bore a hole long-ways through the center and remove the interior. It takes a little practice to insert the corer straight down the center of the zucchini. You can bore in from both sides and meet in the middle, too.
In a sauté pan large enough to hold all the zucchini, melt the butter over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Sauté until soft but not browned.
Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Let it evaporate a little. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook until soft. Finally, add the ground veal and sauté until just slightly browned, letting the sauce thicken up. Remove to a bowl and let the mixture cool.
Add the parsley and Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Now using your fingers, stuff the zucchini with the mixture, making sure it completely fills the interior. You can pack it in fairly tight.
Wipe out the sauté pan with a paper towel. Any little bits left will burn unless you remove them.
Add the olive oil to sauté pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini and sauté until they are very lightly browned and the skin begins to crinkle a little. Roll the zucchini around in the pan to get all sides cooked.
Add the strained tomatoes, a little salt and pepper, and cook until the zucchini is soft. Again, roll the zucchini around so it gets nicely coated in the sauce.
Serve the zucchini on a plate, spooning over some of the sauce.
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com.