Zucchine Ripiene di Tonno

Zucchini Stuffed with Tuna

When I first came across this recipe, I had already started working on sauces in which tuna was not cooked: see the fettuccine and the penne. I was reluctant to do anything with cooked tuna and decided to pass it up. As I thought about it longer, however, it seemed to me it might be good, my own rule notwithstanding, and so I tried it. The dish turned out to be both new and pleasing. For the stuffing, the tuna is mixed with parsley and Parmesan and, once the zucchini are browned, the pan Juices are used with fresh tomatoes to make a spirited, engagingly simple sauce. Although it is cooked, the tuna does not have the harsh taste I like to avoid, because it is insulated by the zucchini walls and does not dry out.

Ingredients

  • pounds fresh, firm zucchini, preferably young and small, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
  • 1 to 1¼ pounds fresh, ripe plum tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tightly packed crumb (the soft, crustless part) from good-quality bread
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)
  • 7 ounces Italian-style tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Method

  1. Wash the tomatoes, drop them into boiling water, and drain after 1 to 2 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel them. Split them in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and cut up the tomatoes into small pieces.
  2. When the zucchini have finished soaking, -wash them in several changes of cold water, scrubbing their skin vigorously with your hands or with a stiff brush to dislodge all grit.
  3. Cut off and discard both ends from each zucchini. Cut the zucchini in half to obtain pieces no longer than 4 to 5 inches.
  4. Scoop out the zucchini flesh, leaving only the vegetable’s thin outer wall, taking care not to puncture it. Keep ½ cup of the flesh and chop it fine.
  5. Soak the soft crumb in water, squeeze it tightly in your hand to force out as much liquid as possible, and put it in a bowl. Add the chopped parsley, grated cheese, tuna, chopped zucchini flesh, and several liberal grindings of pepper. Mix thoroughly with a fork, combining all the ingredients into a homogeneous mixture. Stuff the mixture into the hollowed-out zucchini.
  6. Choose a sauté pan or skillet where the zucchini can subsequently fit without overlapping. Put in the olive oil and turn on the heat to high. When the oil is hot but not smoking, slip in the zucchini. Brown the zucchini all around, then transfer them with a slotted spoon to a platter. A little of the stuffing may drop out of the zucchini while you are browning them. Do not be concerned; just leave it in the pan.
  7. Add the cut-up tomatoes to the pan and turn down the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Return the zucchini to the pan, sprinkle with salt, and cook until they are tender but still a little firm. The time will vary depending on the freshness and age of the zucchini: If they are small and freshly picked, it may take no more than 6 to 8 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

A flavorful and one-dish meal. I’d follow it with a salad such as the Finocchio and Red Pepper.

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