Friday, September 08, 2006

Spaghettini with Zucchini / Bottle gourd and its leaves


Spaghettini with Italian bottle gourd and its leaves
It needs to be eaten with a spoon.
I realised this only after I clicked the photo with a fork on the side.

You might think that I am crazy about bottle gourd. Considering my latest posts, you have reason enough to. However, to be honest, this one is just a coincidence. Well, let me begin from the beginning.

As you know, I went on a holiday last week. As many of you guessed it right here, it was Italy. More precisely, Sicily. ('Mafia' is the first word that comes to your mind? You are a well-read person then. :)) We stayed in the village of Trappeto, which is a part of the Palermo province. We went there on an invitation by this Italian friend of mine, Nina. She has a house there; it's her hometown. Although she is very much a resident of Düsseldorf for over forty years now, she enjoys staying in Sicily in the summer months. I don't blame her; Sicily is indeed beautiful. Will write more about it in another post.
One of the highlights of our stay there was Italian food. Home-made as well as restaurant-made. What I observed was that, like in India, in Italy too home-cooked food is quite different from restaurant food. Until then, I somehow very naïvely thought, that Italians cooked at home what they served in restaurants, or vice versa. But no. I found the home-cooked food much less spicy and much more wholesome. Like this dish. It is a perfect one-dish meal with a good amount of carbs, fibre, Vitamin C and lots more goodness in it. You'll agree when you see the recipe.
Before that, a few notes:
The 'Zucchini' that is used in this dish is actually bottle gourd in a different shape. (Maybe we could call it bottle-snake-gourd-zucchini. Or better still, zucchino, because that is the singular!) What they mean, when they call something a zucchino in Sicily, is this bottle gourd. The dark green zucchini that we know, are not to be seen there.
Also, the leaves are of the same vine, on which this gourd grows. They are sold regularly at the vegetable vendors there. Since I was sure, that I wouldn't find them easily outside Sicily, I asked Nina for a substitute. Well, there is no substiute really. Unless you want to try it out with spinach, she says. I haven't tried making this at home with spinach yet. Maybe you want to?
Besides, the Spaghettini that we used in this dish is like Spaghetti, but with slightly thinner and much shorter strands. If you don't have it at home, feel free to break regular spaghetti in 2-inch long strands. For this, you just have to hold the bunch of spaghetti that you want to use vertically in both hands and give it several twists. What you get is Spaghettini. Simple? :)


What they call zucchino in Sicily (R) and its leaves (L).
Only the smaller, tender leaves were used in the dish.

Recipe for Spaghettini with Zucchini/Bottle gourd and its leaves

Serves 5.


One long Italian bottle gourd or a medium-size regular bottle gourd or two small dark green zucchini, as we know them
Leaves of the bottle gourd vine (Only the tender ones at the tip should be picked.)
250 g. Spaghettini (or spaghetti crushed as explained above)

2-3 tbsp olive oil
7-8 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut
4-5 tomatoes

water for cooking
salt & pepper to taste
grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese to sprinkle


1. Coarsely chop the tender leaves picked from the bottle gourd vine. Soak them in salted water for the tiny insects/worms to settle at the bottom. In case using spinach, first wash the leaves with plain water and then chop them coarse.
2. Peel the bottle gourd/zucchini. In case you are wondering what to do with the peel, see here. Chop it in bite-sized pieces.


Left to right: chopped bottle gourd, peeled bottle gourd and
picked & chopped bottle gourd leaves

3. Take the leaves out of the salt-water solution and give them a quick rinse.
4. Take lots of water in a large pan and bring it to boil. Then add the leaves as well as the chopped zucchini to it.


5. Cook uncovered until the zucchini pieces are soft.


6. Drain the cooked vegetables reserving the water in which they were cooked.
7. Now place the tomatoes in a shallow dish and pour some boiling water over them. Let them rest like that for a couple of minutes, then take them out into a plate and peel them. The peel will come out easily. Roughly chop these tomatoes.
8. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic pieces. Once they turn a shade darker, add the peeled, chopped tomatoes and salt. Cook uncovered on high heat. Mash it with the back of a ladle while it is cooking.


Olive oil ready to sizzle the garlic
(That's a lot of oil, but Nina is not scared.
It is locally pressed oil from locally grown olives.
It can do no harm, she believes.)

9. In the meanwhile, heat the water in which the veggies were cooked. Once it starts boiling, add the spaghettini and some salt. Cook it uncovered until al dente. Once cooked, drain much of the water from it, reserving some in the pan.
10. The tomato sauce must be ready now with a smooth, homogenous consistency. Add it to the pan with the Spaghettini. Add the cooked veggies too. The dish should be rather soupy. Give it a stir and check the taste for salt.
11. Ladle it into deep dishes/bowls. Sprinkle crushed pepper and grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese over it.

Serve hot with some olives and warm Ciabatta bread on the side. Mmmmmmm....... Buono.... :)

I think, this makes a fitting entry for Meeta's Monthly Mingle with 'Holiday Cuisine' as the theme this time. Here I come, Meeta.....

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Nabeela said...

that looks yummy! my kinda dish!

Meeta said...

Glad to have you over, Vaish. You know my door is always open to you. Especially when you bring such great stories and dishes along. So where was my fork ... er spoon?

Anonymous said...

hope you had a great time in Sicily! your cooking seems to have now 'don'ned new colours!!

Foodie's Hope said...

Spoon or fork, who cares??!! Good enough for mafia don , good enough for me !!
Vaishali, I cannot seem to stop shaking!!!Ahhhh.... :D
Love the dish, good job!!!

Vaishali said...

Nabeela, yummier than the dishes you have been coming up with lately? Nah...

Hahahahah...thanks, Meeta. I am looking forward to the round-up now.

TOA, are you perhaps wondering who my 'godfather' is? ;-)

Hehehehe...that was so funny, Asha. Now I can't stop shaking... :)

Krithika said...

Lovely dish ! Waiting to hear more about Sicily, kapeesh ?

Linda said...

Looks positively delicious. I had no idea they cooked like this in Sicily - I would have thought that was more northern Italian style. Learn something every day! I bet that could be frozen nicely if you wanted to send some overseas anytime... ;)

indosungod said...

Vaishali what I know about Sicily is from books and of course "GodFather", now want to visit the place and eagerly looking forward to your piece. When I first saw bottle gourd, I thought Indianized Pasta but it is actually Italianized Pasta how appropriatee.

Prema Sundar said...

Hi Vaishali,
Hope u had a wonderful time in Sicily. I also thought that the Italians cook like we have in restaurants..Beautiful step by step pictures and neat write up.

Nandita said...

Hey Vaishali-you seemed to have had a great time! Sicily and food sure would be a geat combination with or without the mafiosa ;)

Am back from my vacation too!

Vaishali said...

Sure, Krithika. Actually, I too am dying to publish the photographs. It's only the 'writing' part of it, which makes me procrastinate it. :(

Linda, wow! You can distinguish between nortern and southern Italian cooking? For me, all of it is just 'Italian'. I guess, I can do some learning from you. :)

Indo, 'Italianized pasta'? Hahahahaha...What's next? Americanized Burger? Hehehehehe....

Thanks for the kind words, Prema.

Let me now go visit your blog, Nandita. I'm looking forward to the photographs of Coorg.

Menu Today said...

Hi Vaishali,
I am waiting for your next post.(About your vacation and place etc).
Your dish looks so homely. Thanks for sharing.

Lera said...

Something interesting to see, a veggie with a delicious end result..vaishali ,I would say it's a lucky gourd to have found it's way into your kitchen..:)

Ashwini said...

Mamma mia....looks delish Vaish!

Sanjana said...

my kids love Spaghettini. Interesting recipe to make them eat thier Zucchini.
Try this pasta bake - my kid's favourite:

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