Cucuzzelli (Little Zucchini)

Hopefully some of you still have some of your zucchini harvest.  This zucchini recipe has been in my family since before I was born.  It works just as well with store bought zucchini.  I haven’t had any luck with growing zucchini but that may be due to the fact that I grow my garden in pots and may not have enough nutrients.  It’s almost like a stew – hard to describe because there really isn’t anything similar except maybe Eggplant Caponata.

The gravy that’s needed in this recipe can be Marinara or a meat gravy.  A large fresh loaf of crusty Italian bread is delicious with this recipe.

My husband’s family recipe was called Ciambotta and included potatoes.  My family didn’t make this way and I don’t even know how or when to add the potatoes.  Does your family have a vegetable stew recipe?


Cut zucchini and starting to heat.

Zucchini after the liquid is expelled during heating.

Add the gravy after the liquid has evaporated and the zucchini has become soft.

Mix the gravy in.  Note how the color changes.

Add an egg and mix well.  Notice the flecks of egg white in the mixture  Add the second egg and you’ll need to mix well.

Cook a few minutes to ensure the eggs are fully cooked and heated through.   Add the grated cheese.

Mix well and prepare to serve.  Notice the color of the mixture has become much lighter.



  • 4 to 5 medium zucchini
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons or to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 cup gravy or to taste
  • 1 to 2 eggs
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cups grated cheese or to taste (I use Pecorino Romano)


Step 1:  Cut the zucchini lengthwise into quarters and then into 1/4 inch width-wise (1/8 inch if you are using fewer larger zucchini).  Place 1/3 of cut zucchini into a small stock pot or large sauce pot and sprinkle with some of the salt.  Repeat with 1/3 more of the cut zucchini and salt and then with the remaining zucchini and salt.  Heat the pot on medium or a little lower with the cover on.  Stir often with a wooden spoon so the zucchini doesn’t stick.  If there’s condensation on the pot cover when you lift it, don’t let the liquid fall back into the pot as it will be that much more liquid that has to evaporate later on.

Step 2:  As the zucchini cooks for 20 to 25 minutes, liquid will be expelled from the squash.  When the zucchini has softened, most of the liquid has been expelled.  Turn the heat down to low or a little higher.  Continue stirring frequently with the cover removed until the liquid has mostly evaporated.  This could take another 20 to 30 minutes.  The squash should be very soft at this point.

Step 3:  Add the gravy and mix well.  Cook for an additional few minutes to ensure the addition is heated through.  Notice that the color of the mixture has changed to be rather red.

Step 4:  Add an egg and stir well to break the yolk and incorporate it well into the mixture.  You may see some small specks of egg white in the mixture.  If using the second egg, repeat with the second egg.  Cook for an additional few minutes to ensure the eggs are heated and cooked through.  The color of the mixture has lightened a bit with this addition.

Step 5:  Add the grated cheese and mix well.  Serve with fresh crusty Italian bread.

This recipe stores well in the refrigerator and tastes just as good as left-overs.


My family recipe.


This post is dedicated to the assembly of the Manicotti which has always been my Mother’s favorite pasta.  The previous two posts give you some information for the components of the Manicotti.  This one will give the rest of the information.

What about the gravy?  You can use a meat gravy or a meatless gravy (Marinara) to make the Manicotti.  It is delicious either way.  This time I used meatless gravy.

Do you call it gravy or pasta sauce or something else?  My family always called it gravy.  When I refer to gravy as anything else, it’s simply to ensure that I’m being clear.


Mix the ricotta and the grated cheese.

Prepare the pan with the gravy layer.

Start filling the crepe and folding.

Start placing the first row of filled crepes in the pan.

First layer of filled crepes.

First completed layer with the gravy, then the sprinkled grated cheese and then the mozzarella strips.  Try not to eat too many of the mozzarella strips as you work.  This is definitely difficult when using fresh homemade mozzarella.

Second layer of filled crepes.

Second completed layer with the gravy, then the sprinkled grated cheese and then the mozzarella strips.  Ready for the oven.

Ready to eat.



  • 3 lb. container ricotta cheese (I used the Biazzo brand but I also like Polly –O; if you have a local Italian deli that makes their own ricotta, that would make this recipe that much more tasty but it’s a pricy option)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated cheese (I use Pecorino Romano); plus more for sprinkling on the layers
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons milk or more, as necessary (I didn’t need any)
  • 1/2 – 1 recipe meatless gravy (Marinara sauce; can also substitute meat gravy)
  • 1 recipe crepes
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs. mozzarella cut into thin strips (Biazzo or Bellgioso brands are good; I used my husband’s homemade mozzarella; if you have a local Italian deli, you can also use their fresh mozzarella)


Step 1:  In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, grated cheese and some milk, if the mixture seems too dry and difficult to work with (use a little milk as possible – you don’t want this to become soupy).  The easiest way to get all the ricotta out of the container is to invert it into the bowl and squeeze the sides until it slides out in one whole piece.  If that doesn’t work, use a silicone spatula to extract the ricotta while scraping the sides of the container.

Step 2:  To set up for assembly:  Position a half-size aluminum steam table tray in front of you.  Place the gravy in a large bowl further away from you in front of you and on the far side of the empty aluminum tray.  Place the crepes the left side of the tray and the ricotta mixture on the right side of the tray.

Step 3:  Using a wooden spoon, spoon some gravy into the aluminum pan (several tablespoons) and spread a thin layer across the bottom of the pan.  Take a crepe in your left hand and spoon approximately 2 to 4 tablespoons across the center of the crepe in a wide strip from left to right.  Fold the edge of the crepe closest to you across the strip of ricotta and then fold the edge of the crepe farthest from you across the first fold ensuring the crepe is taut and overlaps the first fold.  Place the filled crepe folded side down in the lower left corner of the pan.  Repeat for the next four crepes, placing each filled crepe next to the prior crepe so you have one row of 5 filled crepes.  Create another row of five filled crepes on the right side of the pan.

Step 4:  With a wooden spoon, spoon gravy onto the filled crepes (several tablespoons) and spread a thin layer across them.  Sprinkle grated cheese across the top of the gravy layer.  Place mozzarella pieces across each Manicotti.  I place three small pieces on each.

Step 5:  Repeat the above steps to create a second layer.  This will give you twenty in one pan.  Cover the pan very loosely with aluminum foil, so that when it cooks the mozzarella doesn’t stick to the aluminum foil.  The pan will be heavy and you’ll need to support it from the bottom due to the weight.  You can store this in the refrigerator for a day or so.  This way you only have to bake it on the day you want to serve it.  You can also bake these in one layer by using a second pan.

Step 6:  You’ll likely have some extra crepes, so you’ll need to use another smaller pan for the remaining 1 to 5 crepes.

Step 7:  Place the filled Manicotti trays in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake covered for about an hour.  Remove the aluminum foil cover and bake for another 20 minutes to crisp up the mozzarella and ensure the Manicotti are heated through.

Step 8:  Let the Manicotti rest for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.  The first Manicotti served may be difficult to extract from the pan.  I usually serve two per person, since they are double stacked.  If someone wants only one, I cut the Manicotti in half, so they get two halves instead on one whole one.

Options:  You can add some optional items to the ricotta filling to change it up a bit.  For example, you could add a couple of tablespoons of parsley flakes or a 10 ounce defrosted and drained chopped spinach.  I like these options but, since I had children to serve, I didn’t use them the last time I made these because children don’t usually like to eat green leaves mixed in with their food.

To store the Manicotti:  Place in the refrigerator for a day or two before baking.  For longer term storage place plastic wrap beneath the aluminum foil and then place the entire tray in a supermarket shopping bag and then another shopping bag with the opening opposite from the first bag before placing in the freezer.  Defrost in the refrigerator completely before baking.


My family recipe.