By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
In America, this is the season where the word "pumpkin" is attached to everything from a latte to pancakes to pies, yogurt, coffee, ice cream, and even beer. Believe it or not, "zucca" are just as popular in Italy. In fact, more pumpkins are grown in my country than in the USA, but we usually use this fleshy fruit for other culinary purposes.
Originating in Asia thousands of years ago, zucca were brought to Europe from America after the "discovery" of the new continent by Christopher Columbus. Now grown in all twenty regions of Italy, this low-calorie cucurbitaceous fruit (which includes pumpkins, squashes, and edible gourds) is rich in potassium, magnesium, and vitamins.
Since Italian cooks are always focused on seasonal ingredients, pumpkin is part of many dishes in our cuisine this time of year—puddings, cakes, soups, breads, pastas, and sauces. Some of our most common Italian varieties are the Zucca Marina di Chioggia (cucurbita maxima)—considered the best type for cooking—the Zucca di Napoli (cucurbita moschata), the Americana, the Violino, and the Capello del Prete ("the Priest's hat").
As fate would have it, one of my favorite pumpkin recipes has nothing to do with Italian cuisine. I tasted this beautiful couscous recipe in a Berber tent after a long camel ride on the Sahara dunes. I know that sounds like I'm making it up, but I'm not, I promise! We slept in the desert, our cover a starry sky. In the middle of nowhere, Berber people prepared this fantastic dinner for me and my boyfriend. Every time I cook this recipe at home, I remember that incredible night. Maybe you can conjure something as romantic when you make it. It's easy to prepare and so delicious.
1 slice pumpkin (use butternut squash, acorn squash, or Hubbard squash)
1 bell pepper 1 potato 1 zucchini 1 16 oz-can tomato sauce
1 16-oz can chickpeas
1 tablespoon raisins Harissa sauce 1 pound couscous
Dice vegetables and cover them with water. Boil until tender (about 15–20 minutes). Add salt, tomato sauce, chickpeas, and Harissa sauce. Cook for 5 minutes.
Prepare couscous according to package directions. For each serving, plate the couscous and pour a ladle of the vegetable mixture on top. It's delicious! Enjoy!
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), and Superfoods, Ippo is currently finishing her latest work, The Lords of Florence (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).