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Zucchini with a Lenten, or "Meatless" Filling - Zucchine Ripiene di Magro

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The title of this recipe, Zucchini with a Lenten, or "meatless" filling, begs explanation. Once many years ago my father and I stopped in a trattoria out in the country. He was trying to cut back on red meats, and thus ordered a frittata, specifying that he didn't want any meat with it -- he was assuming he'd get an onion frittata or perhaps one made with greens...

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 zucchini of the same size, weighing about 1 3/4 pounds (800 g) in all
  • A medium onion
  • 2 ounces (50 g) Emmenthal cheese (substitute Swiss if need be)
  • A stale roll
  • 12 thin slices smoked pancetta (substitute regular pancetta if need be)
  • Grated Parmigiano
  • An egg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1/2 a bullion cube
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano
  • Salt & Pepper

Preparation:

... Instead, what arrived was a golden-yellow disk with several thick slabs of prosciutto. "But I said no meat!" said my father.

"Prosciutto isn't meat," said the waitress.

He sighed, thus echoing my feelings upon reading the ingredients of this "meatless" zucchini filling, but Italians do consider pancetta and prosciutto to be seasonings, not meats. If you choose to make it without the smoked pancetta you can; increase the salt slightly to compensate and the end result will still be quite good. The recipe is, in any case, elegant, and will work nicely as a main course in summer. The ingredients above will serve 6.

Moisten the bread in some water, and gently squeeze it dry. Trim the ends of the zucchini, wash them, pat them dry, and core them, extracting the pulp from them so as to produce tubes. Mince the pulp with the onion, garlic, and parsley.

Sauté the minced pulp in three tablespoons of olive oil, peppering it to taste and crumbling the bullion into the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Gently squeeze the bread to remove the excess moisture and combine it with the sautéed vegetables, adding the egg, a pinch of salt, and 5 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano. Mix well.

While you are preparing the filling, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and boil the zucchini tubes for five minutes, then remove them and let them cool upright so they drain.

Preheat your oven to 440 F (220 C). Stuff the zucchini with the filling and wrap each with two of the pancetta slices, then lay them in a lightly oiled oven-proof dish. Sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons of oil and bake them for 15 minutes. In the meantime, shred the Emmenthal. When 15 minutes are up sprinkle the shredded cheese and the tomato sauce over the zucchini, dust everything with a healthy pinch of oregano, and bake for another 15 minutes. Serve hot.

The wine? I'd go with a zesty red, for example a Bardolino.

Triangular says:
The anecdote about Italians not considering it meat is interesting, but it doesn't make it not meat. Why not leave the story in the recipe, but change the title to reflect that your recipe does in fact contain something that satisfies the standard definition of meat. Calling your recipe ""meatless"" in English is in fact kind of offensive to people who keep Kosher or don't eat any animal flesh for any number of personal and/or spiritual reasons.

Point well taken, though it's difficult to address while maintaining the spirit of the Italian name. The recipe is an old recipe, dating to when people considered relatively small amounts of cured meats, especially pancetta or prosciutto, to be flavorings, and not meats per se. For a 19-th (and early 20th) century Italian this was a ricetta di magro (i.e. Lenten or meatless dish) because it is not meat based. It's zucchini based. Since this site is devoted to Italian cooking, food, and culture I have intentionally maintained the Italian names, even though they can lead to comments like the above.

My advice to people who want to make a truely meatless version of this dish is to simply leave out the meat, compensating for it with a bit of salt and perhaps a little more cheese. After all, recipes are not graven in stone, Rather, cooks should feel free to adapt them to their taste.

Kyle Phillips, Your Guide to Italian Cooking

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