Just a quick post about this easy to make Sicilian soup…..if you can get the ingredients. It is easy if you have a friend called Mariana whose father grows tenerumi in his garden.
It is a summer dish and red tomatoes, a little garlic (optional) and basil are also added ingredients. Broken spaghetti are used to thicken the soup…when in Sicily you are unlikely to eat soup without pasta.
There was no zuccalunga but I had a few zucchini and the soup tasted just fine.
You take the long, hard curly tendrils off and use the soft tendrils and soft leaves.
zuccalunga (or zuccaserpente) is a long, pale green marrow. The tendrils and green leaves are from this plant.
There are the greens boiling away. Add a little salt and the broken spaghetti.
The tomatoes are fried and softened in a little extra virgin olive oil with some garlic and basil – it is just tomato salsa and the tomatoes are left cut in half.
Add the tomato mixture on top of the pasta. Drizzle on some good extra virgin olive oil, more basil leaves and some chilli flakes if this is your want.
You will find more photos (including the zucca lunga) and information about this recipe and ingredients on previous posts:
This squash, the green leaves and magnificent sprigs of basil were a gift from a Sicilian friend: her father grew them in his garden. I feel very privileged to be given these precious vegetables. They are not a vegetable that can be easily sourced; I have seen them only once at a market in Melbourne.
in Sicilian this squash is called a cucuzza and in Italian I will call it a zucca lunga – long squash or zucca serpente – which is what it is, a long serpent like squash. The tender leaves and tendrils of this plant are called tenerumi and I have written about these previously because both are typically loved by Sicilians and commonly used to make a refreshing summer soup (it could also be classified as a wet pasta dish).
MINESTRA ESTIVA CON ZUCCA LUNGA SICILIANA, Sicilian Summer soup made with the long, green variety of squash
This time I cooked the soup differently than usual. There was more zucca – I used the produce I was given and I also made it in the same pot (in the other recipe which contains more tenerumi and less zucca, two pans are used).
The next day, we ate the leftovers as a cold soup; it was just as good….and as traditional. It is summer after all.
zucca lunga siciliana ( mine was about 25 cms long)
1 large spring onion, sliced
2-3 tomatoes, roughly cut
3 cups of vegetable broth (I used a broth cube, optional) or water
fresh basil leaves, a good handful
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil,
1 cup of spaghetti (broken in small pieces)
Cut the zucca in half, get rid of the seeds and cube it.
Chop the tomatoes.
Sauté the onion in some olive oil for about 1 minute, add the zucca and continue to sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes.
Season with salt and pepper, add 2 cups of the stock, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the tenerumi, the rest of the stock and some of the basil; bring the contents to the boil.
Cook the pasta in the same pot; add the pasta and cook it until it is al dente.
Add more basil, a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil and serve.
I appreciate this soup’s fresh taste and I sprinkled only a few chilli flakes on top (or use black pepper.)
No, this is not Sicily, I am in Hanoi, in Vietnam. And the Vietnamese eat kohlrabi and the green leaves just like the Sicilians do. In Hanoi, I have yet to have seen them in restaurants so I do not know how they are cooked.
My relatives who live in Ragusa (south-eastern region of Sicily) make causuneddi (Sicilian). These are small gnocchi shaped pasta which is known by different names in other regions of Sicily, for example, gnocculi,gnucchiteddi,cavati andcaviateddi(in Sicilian).
The kohlrabi that my relatives buy are usually much smaller in size and can also be tinged with purple. They are always boiled with the tender leaves sprouting from the centre of the and some cotenne, strips ofpig skin. The pig skin may not sound very appetising, but they really boost the taste.
Although the kohlrabi are in there, they are very hard to see in this photo below. You can however see the causuneddi.
Most of the time the Ragusani add borlotti beans as well. The causuneddi are added to the cooked and boiling soup like mixture last of all. It is like a wet pasta dish and very delicious. Of course, it is never bought to the table without having had fragrant extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top.
In Vietnam, I am also eating the leaves and tendrils of some sort of pumpkin. These greens are very much like tenerumi that the Sicilians love. In Sicily they are made into a soup.
Here in Hanoi they are stir fried with garlic and presented as greens.The photo below shows the pumpkin tendrils.
When I was in Palermo last September there were bunches of tenerumi on sale at the markets – these are the stems, leaves and tendrils of those long, twisted green zucche (squashes) that grow in Sicily and Calabria. The long serpent like squashes are called zucche serpente and you can guess why.
Those of you who have travelled to Sicily in summer may have seen these very unusual vegetables and perhaps not known what they were. Both the squash and the greens are eaten and are considered rinfrescanti (cooling and refreshing for the body). The zucca (singular) and the greens are a Sicilian summertime specialty and I have not seen this type of squash growing in Australia yet.
The greens are usually made into a wet pasta dish and, unfortunately, it is not a dish you will find in a Sicilian restaurant. It is a typical, home-cooked, soupy dish with the flavours of summer: red summer tomatoes, garlic, basil, thickened with broken spaghetti and enhanced with a drizzle of good, extra virgin olive oil.
I first ate this soup in Augusta and it was cooked by one of my cousins, Lidia. In her version, Lidia used both the zucca and the greens. My relatives in Ragusa do not cook minestra di tenerumi very often – it is considered to be a dish typical of the regions of Palermo and Catania. (My mother’s side of the family originally came from Catania).
I was very pleased to eat minestra di tenerumi again recently when I visited a friend’s home in Bosco Falconeria, close to Castellammare (on the north coast, west of Palermo). I appreciated this simple, flavoursome dish for many reasons. Firstly, it was all produce picked fresh from Mary’ Taylor Simeti’s own garden. This included the olives used to make the fragrant, extra virgin olive oil and the organic wine we drank made by her husband, Tonino. Photo above is the soup and how Mary presented.
Mary Taylor Simeti is one of my heroes – I think that sometimes it takes a “foreigner ‘ with a passion to rediscover and tease out the history behind the food ( not that she is a foreigner, she is part of Sicily, having dedicated so many years to writing about it in numerous books and articles).
Secondly, I was very pleased to be presented with such a simple dish. In my normal diet I eat a lot of vegetables and when I travel and eat in restaurants and trattorie, I crave freshly cooked vegetables – I can’t wait to get back to friends and relatives. Besides, these are not the typical vegetables or cooking found in Sicilian eateries and Mary, our host, knew that some of us who had been invited to eat at her table would never have eaten this. We all loved it. Mary presented this simple dish with small cubes of caciocavallo – a special DOP Sicilian cheese (cascavaddu in Sicilian) produced mainly in the province of Ragusa.
I once used the very young shoots of the zucchini plants (complete with the flowers and young zucchini) to make this soup – different, but nevertheless, rinfrescante and a celebration of summer.
Although we may not be able to buy tenerumi in Australia at this stage, we may not have long to wait.
I was fascinated to see one of the episodes of Sean Connelly’s Family Feast on SBS. It featured the food of a family of Africans from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are living in the Western suburbs of Sydney and are growing African leaf vegetables; on the program the family were harvesting and eating tendrils very like tenerumi. These tendrils were the shoots from a different type of squash plant, but would probably taste very similar to the Sicilian variety.
As in all Sicilian food, there are local variations. Some substitute the garlic with finely chopped fresh onion, others add anchovies, but personally, if it is to be rinfrescante – refreshing, anchovies are not suitable. Here is a recipe which suits my tastes for making minestra di tenerumi (excuse me Mary if this is different to your recipe).
The wet pasta dish is cooked very quickly.
tenerumi, equivalent to a large bunch, 500g
garlic cloves , 3-4 chopped finely
ripe tomatoes , 300g seeded and cut into dice (I think Mary used cherry tomatoes)
fresh basil leaves , torn, about 15
spaghetti , broken into small pieces, 200g
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
hot chilli (optional)
grated pecorino cheese (optional)
Prepare the shoots and tendrils, discard the tough stems, separate into small bits.
Add the tenerumi to boiling, salted water and bring to the boil again (estimate 3 cups of water per person).
Add the pasta and cook.
While the pasta is cooking, toss the tomatoes into a hot frying pan with about 3 tablespoons of the oil, add garlic and chilli, salt and some of the basil and heat through for a few minutes.
When the pasta is cooked, check that you have the correct consistency – it should be like a very thick soup and you may need to drain some of the liquid.
Add the warm tomato mixture and more basil.
Drizzle with your best extra virgin olive oil and serve.
Cheese is optional. I prefer it without and appreciate the fresh taste of the dish.