Pasta with Italian Squash or Calabaza Squash is known in Italy as “Pasta con Zucca,” or in the south of Italy it’s called “Pasta con Cocozza.” This dish is an old family recipe that my mom has been making for years and we still make this pasta with squash today; its a perfect Autumn dish.
The orange colored squash cooks down gently to a smooth creamy sauce with pieces of squash in it. It is sautéed with garlic, fresh herbs and red pepper to give it a sweet and spicy savory taste. It’s vegetarian delight, a pasta dish that is comfort food in our home and one you can make all winter long while it’s in season.
This particular Italian squash is called “cocozza.” It’s a seasonal vegetable, that usually sells during the summer and fall. Our mom would buy a bunch of this squash, take it home, peeled and chopped it up and freeze. She enjoyed making this hearty pasta dish all winter long.
If you can find it, it looks like a very long and large zucchini with a dark green skin on the outside and deep orange on the inside. And the texture and taste is very similar to Calabaza squash which is a sweet Spanish squash you can find in most supermarkets and farm stands.
It’s still a popular item in today’s food markets in the Bronx, New York where most Italian immigrants first settled and brought the seeds back from Italy. If you can’t find the Italian squash called “cocozza,” then Calabaza squash is a fine substitute and just as delicious!
Sometimes its difficult to get kids to eat vegetables, and this is a great way to “hide” them. Kids love most pasta dishes and this one has a creamy texture like a mac and cheese and very flavorful! So I hope you’ll give this recipe a try.
Try changing the spaghetti to something more fun, like pin-wheels, or mini bow-ties. Add a little cheese on top and watch how your little ones eat this dish up. Adults love it too!
Pasta with Italian Squash or Calabaza Squash is a nice change from spaghetti with tomato sauce. This is one of our favorite pasta dishes and we hope it will become yours too!
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 pounds Italian squash- peeled, seeded, chopped
- 1/8 crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley – chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 pound of spaghetti
- fresh ground pepper
- parmigiana grated cheese
In a medium size pot, heat on medium, add olive oil and garlic.
Sauté`garlic until golden brown. Add the crushed red pepper and salt.
Add squash, fresh parsley and 1/2 cup of water. Cover.
Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the squash cooks down to a soft melting texture.
Take 1 package of spaghetti, divide in half and grab a few strands of spaghetti at a time. With your hands, gently break into small pieces.
Continue until you finish and fill a bowl.
Remove the garlic cloves just before you add the broken spaghetti into the squash mixture.
Add spaghetti, additional 1/2 cup of water and bring to boil.
Using a wooden spoon, stir occasionally. Gradually add more water ( about 1/4 cup each time) if needed.
Simmer on low heat for about 7 to 10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. (Al dente refers to the desired texture of cooked pasta in Italian cooking. It literally means “to the tooth,” meaning still firm when bitten.) Taste for salt. Add some fresh ground pepper to taste! Turn off heat. The squash should be a creamy sauce. Stir again and serve into pasta dishes. Add some parmigiana cheese on top!