Stuffed Zucchini Pesaro-Style with Ground Veal, Tomatoes, Parmesan, and White Wine

Zucchine Ripiene di Vitello alla Pesarese

From my earliest efforts as a cook, I have enjoyed exploring the potential of a hollowed zucchini and have found it can contain a diversity of good things: ground pork and such pork products as prosciutto and pancetta, ground lamb and rice, or rice with wholly vegetarian accompaniments such as onions, tomatoes, and herbs. You can adapt the procedure described below to produce combinations of your own devising. These are the zucchini I have been making lately, a dish I had in the Marches seaside town of Pesaro. I find them very fine because they contain veal—the meat most delicate in taste—which within its moist vegetable cocoon stays unusually juicy. You may also use pork, although for the fine, sweet taste of its meat, veal is my first choice.

Ingredients

  • 7 or 8 medium zucchini
  • 1 pound fresh, firm tomatoes or 1 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 ounces ground veal or pork
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly mashed with the handle of a knife
  • â…” cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • A medium yellow onion, chopped fine, about ½ cup
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Method

  1. Soak the zucchini for at least 20 minutes in a basin of cold water and scrub clean. Slice off both ends. If you have very large zucchini, cut them in half to obtain pieces about 4 to 5 inches long.
  2. Use a narrow-bladed knife or other suitable tool to hollow out the zucchini, scooping out their center to make tubes with thin walls that will later contain the meat stuffing. Be careful not to pierce the skin. Chop the scooped-out zucchini flesh rather fine and set aside.
  3. If using fresh tomatoes, skin them raw with a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler, cut them in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon without squeezing the tomatoes, and cut them up in several pieces.
  4. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and turn the heat on to medium high. As soon as the oil is hot enough to sizzle instantly on contact with the meat, put in the ground veal and cook it to a light brown color, turning it a few times. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer it to a bowl. Do not clean out the skillet.
  5. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet, add the mashed garlic cloves, and cook them at medium high heat, stirring frequently, until they become colored a light gold. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and discard.
  6. Put the chopped zucchini flesh in the skillet and brown it lightly at medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, turning it from time to time.
  7. Put the browned zucchini flesh in the bowl containing the ground veal; add the grated Parmesan, salt, and black pepper; and mix all ingredients, combining them smoothly and uniformly.
  8. Stuff the hollowed-out zucchini with the mixture. It doesn’t matter if the stuffing is not sufficient to fill them tightly.
  9. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan or skillet and turn the heat on to medium high. As soon as the oil is hot, put in as many zucchini as will fit loosely in a single level without overlapping. Turn them, browning them on all sides, then use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer them to a platter. If in the process a little bit of the stuffing should fall out, it’s of no consequence. If the zucchini did not all fit comfortably into the pan in a single batch, do another batch, repeating the procedure. Do not clean out the pan when they are done.
  10. Put the chopped onion in the pan where you browned the zucchini, and cook it over medium high heat, stirring, until it becomes colored a light gold.
  11. Return all the zucchini to the pan, squeezing them in tightly if necessary, and add the wine. While the wine bubbles away, use a wooden spoon to scrape loose the browning residues from the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt, put in the cut-up tomatoes with their juice, turn over the contents of the pan once or twice, then put a lid on and turn the heat down to low. Cook at low heat for about 30 or 40 minutes, gently turning the zucchini from time to time. When done, allow their heat to subside for about 5 minutes before serving.

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