Getting started again – with some help from ‘la minestra con i tenerumi’ …

30 April, 2010

Getting started again has not been so easy!  I’ve been back in Palermo for several weeks, wandering through the old city, lured from one thing to the next, unable to stop and consolidate.  One day, with a great sense of excitement,  I discover a little arabo-norman pavilion in an overgrown garden, the next  a faded, seemingly abandoned 18th century villa, and then a tiny public garden with short quotations from classical texts incised into little metal plaques placed here and there along the footpath.   Each day I come home keen to learn more about what I have found; one thing pulls me on to the next.   I need to stop and reflect, but it’s not possible.  I feel like a guest at a sumptuous feast who knows he should stop and savour what he is eating, but finds that each mouthful makes the next inevitable.     

Long zucchini

Then, gradually, my daily visits to the local food market , like a recurring theme, force me to slow down and focus.  I stop and admire the abundant Spring produce: huge piles of broad beans,  glossy dark purple aubergines,  rich red tomatoes, bunches of asparagus, and baskets of loquats, and on almost every stall a pile of long, thin pale green zucchini – often more than a metre long – and, beside them, a large box  of  zucchini leaves with curling tendrils and closed buds.  These long zucchini, sometimes called snake zucchini, are a speciality of Sicily and apparently very difficult to find anywhere else –  although I am told you see them in Naples, where they are called cucuzzella longa.  Each year I have seen these zucchini in the markets, but not known what to do with them.  I decided it was time to find out.       

It seems that the leaves of the long zucchini, known here as tenerumi, are more highly prized than the zucchini itself.  They form the basis of one of Palermo’s best loved dishes: a summer soup known as la minestra con i tenerumi or pasta con i tenerumi – pasta and zucchini leaf soup.   

  It is sometimes said that giving a recipe for la minestra con i tenerumi is pointless because if you are in Palermo you’ll already know how to make it, and if you are not, you probably won’t have any long zucchini.   It was not, however, pointless for me: I was very grateful for a recipe.  So … just in case you are able to find, or better still grow, some long zucchini,  and keen to have a taste of Sicily, here is the recipe that was given to me.        














Pasta and zucchini leaf soup

Pasta con i tenerumi

1 large bunch zucchini leaves (remove tough stalks and any flowers that have opened, select the best leaves i.e. discard very large leaves which may be tough); wash well and chop

1.5 litres of water

50gr (2 oz) caciocavallo cheese (or other hard cheese) cut into small dice

2 ripe  tomatoes, chopped

4 basil leaves 

120 gr spaghettini  (broken into short pieces) 

1 clove garlic   

Extra virgin olive oil                   

Salt and pepper

Bring the salted water to the boil.  As soon as it boils, add the zucchini leaves and boil for about 10 minutes. Then add the spaghetti pieces and while they are cooking, in a separate pan, lightly brown the garlic in 2 tbsps of oil.    Add the tomato, basil and pepper and cook for a few minutes. 

As soon as the pasta is cooked add the tomato mixture.  Turn off the heat, check for seasoning and add the cheese. 

A similar soup can be made using the long zucchini themselves, peeled and diced.  Or, the zucchini (peeled and diced) can simply be boiled in salt water, drained and cooled in the fridge.  They are eaten cold with a drizzle of oil.   



9 Responses to “Getting started again – with some help from ‘la minestra con i tenerumi’ …”

  1. Sally F Says:

    I am glad you wrote down the recipe. My mouth is watering as I write. Do you ever see seeds for long snake zucchini in the seed shops in Sicily? If so, do get me some so that I can experiment on the allotment in south-west London where ordinary zucchini do well most summers.

    • kateludlow Says:

      I’m sure I can find some seeds here – I’ll have a look this week. I don’t see why snake zucchini wouldn’t grow in London. It would be interesting to try. A friend here, who is an excellent cook, tells me that she also boils peeled zucchini pieces in with the leaves and serves the mixture, either hot as a separate vegetable or cold as a salad, with lemon juice and olive oil.

  2. antonio Says:

    Welcome home Kate! I hope you had a wonderful time away. I have missed your Sicilian insights. The recipe sounds interesting and worth a try (I think).

  3. CateM Says:

    It’s great to have you back online! I’ve also missed your blog entries.

    I also find food markets very grounding. The long zucchini looks interesting. I look forward to trying your version of ‘tenerumi’ on my next visit. I’m not sure I’ll find it where I am!

    • kateludlow Says:

      Thank you for reading again! I suspect you won’t find any tenerumi where you are, so you’ll definitely have to pay a visit before the end of summer.

  4. Domenica Says:

    i grow them in chicago…im from Palermo!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: