Cavatelli con zucca (squash/pumpkin) is a dish from Campobasso, Molise, Italy [COM-POH-BAH-SO]. Campobassani actually hand-roll the cavatelli making the dough from squash and potato and then topping with a butter sauce or a pomodoro sauce. Instead of hand-rolling the cavatelli, I found a recipe via Mario Batali that mixes the cavatelli with butternut squash. This dish is amazing and probably one of my favorite pasta dishes. It’s perfect for the fall; hearty and satisfying, sometimes a big bowl of pasta after a long day at work is just what you need. Pair it with a glass of sweet, white wine (Pinot Grigio) to offset the spiciness of the red pepper flakes.
Italy is made up of various regions (20 to be exact) that have their own capital city. For example, Tuscany is probably one of the most famous regions, and its capital is Florence. Campobasso is the capital of the region of Molise. However, Molise is probably one of the least known regions as well as the most rural; it’s the second smallest province in Italy and home to about 300,000 residents. The reason I’m talking about Molise and more specifically about Campobasso is because it’s where this dish originated from and also where my maternal grandfather’s relatives are from.
Even though Campobasso is such a small city, what is ironic, is that there are numerous people in Syracuse that have relatives from Campobasso (two of my friends’ families (ACV & LDN)). Is it possible that even though Campobasso was so small and the internet was nowhere near existence, people in small Italian towns (via word of mouth) heard where their neighbors and friends were settling in the US and decided to move there? Since there were other Campobassani in Syracuse, NY, maybe that’s why Frank and Carmella Farinacci (my great-grandparents) decided to move there; they had a connection and even the possibility of work.
I’ve been to Italy three different times now: the first time, I was studying abroad in Florence and actually met my future husband there; the second time, I was there for 2 weeks running a marathon in Florence with my future husband; and the third time, I was there for 1 month doing graduate school work and getting engaged to my future husband. Even though I’ve traveled around various regions and cities in Italy, I never made my way down to Campobasso. My mom went there when she was 16 to visit her cousins and relatives. They are still there in Campobasso, so next trip to Italy will be to the south and more specifically, to Campobasso, to visit my relatives.
Do you have family in Italy? If so, have you visited them? What unique and local dishes did they make? What is their regional cuisine like?
Molisian cuisine consists of rustic peasant fare – vegetables and game (rabbit, lamb, suckling pig, etc.) They are also known for their sheep’s milk cheeses like Pecorino, Scamorza, Caciocavallo, and Provolone.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 lbs. butternut squash peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- Salt & fresh ground pepper for seasoning
- 1 package of cavatelli
- ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
- Peel, seed, and dice butternut squash and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and crushed red pepper. Cook over med-high heat about 5 minutes.
- Add the squash, thyme, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Cover sauté pan and cook over low heat, about 8 more minutes or until squash is tender.
- Meanwhile, add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until al dente (Cavatelli cooks extremely quickly because it is fresh pasta, so do not overcook or they will become mushy.).
- Drain cavatelli, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Add the cavatelli to the squash mixture in the skillet, then stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta water and toss gently to combine.
- Add the Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper, and stir gently. Add more pasta water if too dry.
- Serve the pasta with more Parmesan cheese for sprinkling.