This article originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of Dream of Italy.
This recipe is such a family favorite that over the last 50 years, my aunt’s fingers have morphed into the perfect shape to stuff the small Roman zucchini. Her index fingers are slightly twisted and curved and make for the perfect tools.
As a kid, I ate these at many summer lunches at my grandparents’ apartment. Now as an adult, my aunt Andreina convinces me to make the trek to her apartment (which used to belong to my grandparents) across the city in the Quartiere Trieste in the the summer heat with the promise of stuffed zucchini. She always makes extra so I can take some home and turns any leftover filling into tiny meatballs as a special treat.
The mix of sausage and beef that goes inside of the hollowed-out zucchini was my grandma’s idea, and my aunt, her only daughter, continues the tradition today. My aunt uses the same bowls, the same utensils, the same oven to make them as my nonna did and they taste just like summer memories of my childhood.
In Rome, summer is zucchini season. They are sold at markets with the flowers still attached to the ends. Sometimes, she adds the flowers to the filling or uses them for other recipes. My aunt prefers the smallest of the zucchini since they cook for less time and do not dry out the filling. Roman zucchini are smaller and more delicate than the ones found in the United States, but the recipe can be doubled to fill the larger vegetables. – Alessandro Fanelli
Alessandro Fanelli is a data analyst in Rome, but for a decade he played an active part in his family’s pig farm on the Lazio–Abruzzo border, even appearing in an episode of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods.
Recipe: Zia Andreina’s Zucchine Ripiene
½ lb of ground beef
½ lb of ground sausage
6 Roman Zucchini
1. Cut the zucchini into pieces about 3 inches in length
2. Hollow out the insides of the zucchini with a pointy knife or use an apple corer to clear them out. Save the insides.
3. In a bowl, mix the ground beef, ground sausage, the insides of the zucchini, the flowers if you have them, an egg and a little bit of salt, keeping in mind that the sausage is already salty
4. Using your hands, stuff the mixture into the zucchini and ensure it is compact and full but not overstuffed
5. If you have any extra filling, roll them into tiny meatballs and cook on the sides of the baking tray. I think my aunt makes more filling on purpose to ensure we have these bitesize bits too.
6. Line the zucchini in a baking tray with a little bit of olive oil on the bottom and drizzled over the top
7. Cook for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until the zucchini are tender. Test with a fork and if they are soft, it is time to take them out.
8. Sprinkle some chopped mint on top, if desired.
9. Eat the zucchini at room temperature or slightly warm.