The New Spaghetti Western (Texan, that is): Tracie’s Pasta e Zucca
A few days ago, Tracie of My Life Italian, who is a Texan living in Naples, gave me a recipe to convince me that sometimes fresh pumpkin is worth all the work. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical since I really hate cutting raw pumpkin. But a friend of the family who is growing several varieties of pumpkin and winter squash, both edible and decorative (see left), proffered me a smallish, edible, tightly-lobed pumpkin as we left their country house last weekend. So there I was with a good, simple-sounding recipe and sort of the right main ingredient.
A 2-inch piece of “zucca di napoli” pumpkin (get an idea of how much that is here)
2 garlic cloves
enough olive oil to cover sauce pan plus some for drizzling
6 ounces of pasta (or whatever your definition of “pasta for 2” is)
salt to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp chopped parsley (or in my case, fried sage leaves)
Here’s Tracie’s explanation of “pasta e zucca”:
hey susan! i'll leave that recipe on this post's comments so maybe someone else will grow a wild hair up their asses and try to make it.
cut a hunk of zucca (please don't ask me how much, about a 2-inch thick slice for 2 people if you want it squashy) into squares (some bigger, some smaller. this way, some will sciogliere and some will maintain a little zucca integrity).
cover the bottom of a pan (keeping in mind that youwill have to add water and pasta) with a healthy helpin of olive oil. let a couple of garlic cloves (halved) flavor the oil and become just blonde.
into the hot oil, add the cubed zucca and some salt. cover the pan and let it go for a couple of minutes.
stir it just enough to keep it from sticking and leave it alone to fry just enough to let some of if brown a little.
when you've gotten a little caramelization going (vedi tu!), add enough water to eventually cover the amount of pasta you want to cook. stir it, salt it, and let it get soft.
when the pieces are soft, add the pasta into the same pan as the zucca and if necessary, more water to cover it all by about an inch. the traditional pasta here is the pasta mista, but i love tubettini integrale. i have to eat the tubes in a secret cave where the food police can't find me, but since your guy isn't italian, you can invent as your sfizio sees fit.
cook it, stirring frequently (mi raccomando! that is, if you don't want to spend the night excavating pieces of cooked pasta from the bottom of your pan) until it's done. it should seem like a clingy, thick sauce, not a soup.
at the end, add pepperoncino if you want, fresh prezz, and a drizzle of evoo.
Result: I screwed this dish up and it was still delicious! I mean delicious enough to start cutting pumpkin for. I had a very lobed pumpkin that would have been impossible even for someone who isn’t me to cut raw, so I cut the thing in half (no small feat!) and baked the pumpkin until al dente and then scooped the still firm flesh out. It got less caramelized than Tracie’s original but was still great. Music to caramelize pumpkin with: the Italian and Texan hybrid stylings of Ennio Morricone, Spaghetti Western film scorist, extraordinaire! I began with what I thought was enough water and added more 3 times during the stirring. That posed no problem either. I had no parsley but fried some sage leaves in the initial oil (with the blonde garlic) and sprinkled them on top in the end, instead. All went great, Gabriel loved it (Tracie, I used pennette and he didn’t even know that was the wrong pasta!)