Thursday, May 1, 2014


Spaghetti squash, ricotta salata, olives, capers

It's recipe time! Today I have an Italian-American combination that is not actually "Italian-American." If you're confused, I mean I have prepared a regional Italian recipe with an American ingredient, downgrading another couple of ingredients in the process. I hesitate to call it "fusion" because I'm not that desperate. But it's good enough, I believe, to avoid being labeled "a shortcut".

The original recipe is zucca with ricotta forte, which translates to "pumpkin with strong ricotta". The ricotta forte is a specialty of Bari, in the region of Puglia (Italy's high heel), and it's a pungent, spreadable cheese that is basically ricotta left to go bad for months. You can read its fascinating story in this post from Serious Eats. In the original recipe, pumpkin cubes are cooked with onions, celery, capers, anchovies, and black olives, and then mixed with a couple tablespoons of ricotta forte.

I replaced the ricotta forte with ricotta salata, which nowadays is a delicious and inexpensive staple in my pantry. Then, I replaced the pumpkin with spaghetti squash because I think it works great both for flavor and texture. Plus, I love spaghetti squash because I think it's Mother Nature giving a winking nod to Italian cuisine. *winks back*

This resulting dish is absolutely delicious and packs a lot of flavor. You can serve it as an appetizer or side, maybe spooned on toasted country bread. It also tastes great the day after, but I can't say about the day after that, because then it's usually gone. One admission: In my version you won't find the anchovies. As much as I worship my little oily friends of the sea, I've found that the squash-anchovy combination is not something my body reacts well to. If you want to try it, add two anchovies to the hot oil at the beginning of the recipe. And if you like it, you're allowed to call me a coward.

Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta Salata and Black Olives

1 small or medium spaghetti squash, roasted
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
1 tbsp capers (or more!)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2/3 cups pitted black cured olives, halved
1 cup cubed ricotta salata
dried oregano
black pepper
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and capers. Let the capers "bloom".
  • Add the onion and celery to the pan and stir fry until the onion is golden and soft but the celery is still somewhat crispy, for 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the spaghetti squash and cook until it colors a bit, about 10 minutes. 
  • Add the black olives and cook for another 10 minutes or so, adding a few tablespoons of water if the squash mixture gets too dry.
  • Transfer the cooked mixture in a bowl and stir in the ricotta salata. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a hefty pinch of dry oregano, and freshly ground black pepper.

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