Pasta con i Tenerumi (Pasta with the Green Leaves of Squash or Chard)

Pasta con i Tenerumi (Pasta with the Green Leaves of Squash or Chard)
Recipe Type: Main Dish
Author: This recipe is available in Cucina del Sole: A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. To be published June 12th by Morrow/HarperCollins. Available at Jessica’s Biscuit (http://www.ecookbooks.com)
Note from Nancy Harmon Jenkins, the cookbook author: A traditional and much-loved Sicilian recipe, this is not difficult to make, as long as you have access to tender, young leaves. What are used in Sicily are leaves of the long pale-green squash called zucca longa or cucuzza. Occasionally you can find zucca longa in farmers’ markets-just ask the farmer for a big bundle of leaves (and watch her face for her reaction: “Huh-hh?”). Failing that, you may also use the leaves of zucchini or summer squash, but they should be the youngest and tenderest leaves you can find in the garden. (I don’t imagine you would ever find such things in even the most well-supplied produce shop.) Pumpkin or winter squash leaves, I think, are simply too tough, but if you can’t find any leaves from the squash family, try this recipe with chard or spring greens – it’s surprisingly tasty. Unusually, the pasta is cooked right in the tenerumi sauce.
Ingredients
  • 2 or 3 bunches of squash or chard leaves (18 to 20 leaves), enough to make 6 packed cups of sliced leaves
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Sea salt
  • 1 dried hot red chili pepper, or 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti or other long, thin pasta, broken into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium dark green zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated caciocavallo or parmigiano reggiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Prepare the squash/chard leaves, washing them well. If the center rib is tough, remove and discard it. Sliver the leaves in half-inch slices.
  2. In a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients, combine the olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes and set over medium-high heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle and the tomatoes begin to melt, stir in the slivered squash leaves and stir to mix well. Cover the pan and let the leaves steam, stirring frequently, until they have wilted in the water clinging to their leaves. Stir in the diced potatoes, adding salt and chili pepper to taste. Add about 4 cups of water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan and simmer until the potatoes are just tender.
  3. Have ready a kettle full of boiling water. When the potatoes are just tender, add the broken spaghetti along with the diced zucchini and enough boiling water, if necessary, just to cover all the ingredients. Raise the heat slightly and boil vigorously until the pasta is tender. Remove from the heat and serve immediately, in shallow soup or pasta plates, passing the cheese separately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.