Italian zucchini & tomato stew

4    |   
Prep Time:
10 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
30 minutes

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Italian zucchini & tomato stew

adapted from recipe by Rosetta Costantino

I’m suspicious of the word simple. Nothing seems simple these days, not even walking out the door. So when I pulled a crazy, curvy squash called tromboncino out of my friend Lori’s garden, I didn’t think it would be simple to cook. Then I asked Rosetta Costantino, cultivator of her own spectacular garden and muse of all things Southern Italian, what to do with it and she suggested braising it the way she does with big zucchini. When I watched Rosetta’s video of preparing her dish, I thought, wow, it’s so simple, how can it be that good? I guess I’d forgotten the cardinal rule of Italian cooking: take a few simple ingredients, combine them without fuss, and the results are exquisite.
Italians would call this a minestra, which is partway between soup and stew. It’s cooked at a fairly brisk simmer to get rid of excess liquid and spooned over toasted bread or croutons. You can stir in cannellini or garbanzo beans for protein instead or top it with parmesan or feta. I like it warm or room temp with a thread (un filo) of oil poured on top. And I love it cold from the fridge the next day, when it’s too complicated to do anything else.

2 lbs large zucchini
5 large basil leaves
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped peeled fresh or canned tomatoes
1-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 dried chile de arbol or pinch red pepper flakes
Toasted rustic bread slices or croutons, optional

Slice zucchini in half lengthwise then crosswise into slices about ¼-inch thick. Stack the basil leaves, roll them up and slice crosswise into strips. In a large saucepan or other pot, combine the zucchini, basil, onion, tomatoes, water, olive oil, salt, and the whole chile or red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until zucchini and onion are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Check pot and stir once or twice to make sure liquid isn’t completely evaporating; adjust heat as necessary.

Taste and season with salt. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, ladled over toasted bread or croutons if desired. Drizzle each portion with a thread of olive oil. Simple simple simple.