October is here, which means it’s finally time to start celebrating the harvest and all of the wonderful things that it brings to the Italy. Of course, most people think of wine, olive oils, and perhaps even mushrooms, when they think of the foods that Italy has such an enormous reputation for. Pumpkins often don’t get mentioned at all.
However, you may be surprised to learn that the pumpkin is actually an Italian favourite. Knowing that, we’re sure you won’t be surprised to learn that there are plenty of recipes for simple pumpkin dishes that you can make your own to celebrate this wonderful time of the year.
And so, we’re going to continue our recent trend for combining the best of the Italian culinary arts with some wonderful wines with another recipe article. We’re going to take a look at a Zucca alla scapece, which is a marinated pumpkin dish that finds its origins in Rome. As usual, we’ll follow the format of telling you about the ingredients, followed by the steps, before coming up with a few great wine choices so that you can enjoy the perfect meal.
So let’s stop beating around the bush. This is what you’ll need to make a great Zucca alla scapece.
As usual, we recommend getting all of these ingredients prepared before you start following the steps for the recipe. If you don’t, you may find yourself rushing around to try and get things ready, which often leads to mistakes that ruin the dish.
With that being said, you should get all of the following ready:
- Approximately 400g of pumpkin flesh. You could get store bought, but it’s always best to go fresh. Plus, you’ll have fun carving up a pumpkin for your Halloween decorations.
- About 50ml of water.
- A little over 200ml of olive oil. You’ll use most of these for frying, with a little left over for if you need it.
- About 100ml of red wine vinegar to give it that little kick.
- A couple of tablespoons of regular sugar.
- A single clove of garlic, which you should slice and peel before use.
- A few mint leaves
- A red chili that you’ve dried out beforehand. You have the choice of crumbling or chopping the chili, so take your pick.
- Have a little bit of salt handy for seasoning. You should need much.
Bear in mind that this recipe feeds four people, so you can reduce the ingredients accordingly if you’re serving for fewer.
Unlike some of the recipes that we’ve featured in this blog, the steps for Zucca alla scapece are actually surprisingly simple. Of course, you still need to get them right, so let’s get started.
Take your pumpkin flesh and start cutting it into slices. They should be about a quarter of an inch thick, and approximately one inch long.
Put your olive oil in a frying pan and allow it to heat up. We actually recommend a small pan for this, as it’s easier to control. Once the oil has heated up, starting adding batches of pumpkin slices to the pan. Once one batch gets soft and develops a golden colour, you should remove them from the oil and use a paper towel to blot away any excess oil. Do this for each batch of slices until you have none left.
While you’re doing this, put another small pan on the hob. Add your sugar, crushed chili, water, garlic and vinegar to the pan. You can also add a little salt here, if you want to. A lot of people think that this changes the complexion of the dish though.
Bring the mixture up to the boil and allow it stay there for about five minutes, possibly less. You should then remove the pan and put it to the side to allow the liquid some time to cool down.
Place all of your cooked slices of pumpkin into a large bowl. Tear up your mint leaves and scatter them over the top of the pumpkin. You should also add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on top.
Take your other pan and use it to out your liquid mixture over the top of the pumpkin slices. Aim for a nice, even spread.
Leave the dish to sit for a couple of hours, so the pumpkin slices absorb as much of the liquid as possible. We recommend coming back every 20 minutes or so to give the slices a turn, so that they can absorb as much as possible.
After a couple of hours, you will have you Zucca alla scapece. Now, let’s look at some of the wines that we think complement this gorgeous pumpkin treat well.
So what wine selection should you make for this dish? As usual, we have a couple of selections for you to pore over.
An old Italian favourite, Sangiovese is a perfect wine to combine with pumpkin as it matches up well with the traditionally sweet flavours of the fruit. In particular, Sangiovese often has notes of strawberry, cherry tarts, and red plums, all of which go rather wonderfully with your pumpkin meal.
In fact, many people use Sangiovese when cooking pumpkin. However, we think that there’s a lot to be said for enjoying a nice glass of this wonderful wine with your Zucca alla scapece.
We have to admit that Amarone is one of our favourite Italian red wines, so we always take the opportunity to recommend it when we can. Many use this wine as part of a pumpkin risotto sauce, as it’s capable of bringing out the interesting flavours that the pumpkin possesses.
However, we also think that Zucca alla scapece has enough strength to now be overpowered if you enjoy a glass of Amarone with the meal. In fact, we think it complements the dish rather well if you want to go for something that is perhaps a tad less fruity than a Sangiovese.