We’ve known Mariella and Nello ever since Pino worked the grape harvest on the farm near Assisi where Nello was “agricultural foreman.” That was well over forty years ago.
They’re retired now but Nello always has his hands in the earth, caring for their vineyard and olive grove. He also cultivates a vast vegetable garden: after all, the yield has to provide for both of them, the families of their two children – and dozens of bottles of tomato sauce for each family.
When they visited the other day, a crate of those tomatoes was a gift for us:
Many Umbrian women make baked stuffed zucchini, but our family agrees: Marbella’s version is simply numero uno.
Her secret? I’m convinced it’s her addition of la groviera (Swiss gruyere cheese).
A recipe? There isn’t one. No Umbrian rural woman I know has a cookbook (and most have probably never even seen one!)
Each learns from cooking with Mamma and Nonna… and then perhaps adding an individual twist. Quantities of ingredients? By eye. Yours.
I asked Mariella to tell me how she makes her zucchine gratinate al forno.
I’ll try to share her secrets here:
Wash small zucchini (note size in photo above) and cut longitudinally. Cut out fleshy interior and set aside. Sprinkle zucchini with salt and set in baking pan, drizzling each slice lightly with Extra-virgin olive oil (of course, Mariella uses theirs…). Let sit overnight. Water will have formed in pan: set aside.
The next day, prepare stuffing: mix together diced bits of zucchini (you’d set aside previously), a diced garlic clove, diced parsley (optional), bread crumbs, a bit of ripe diced tomato, freshly grated Parmesan, some grated groviera, a bit of olive oil to amalgamate all together.
Quantities? Depends on how many zucchinis you are using. Experiment!
Line baking pan with foil or wax paper, covering lightly with olive oil. Place zucchini in baking pan. Sprinkle over zucchini the water formed when salting which you’d set aside. Bake in hot oven, about 450 F until baked zucchini are soft to fork. Then raise temperature a few moments so that breaded filling of zucchini forms a bit of crust.
Buon appetito! And I hope that your zucchini will rival Mariella’s!
Mariella’s zucchini with oven-roasted potatoes on the side