At the first hint of cool weather, cucuzza squash starts showing up at the farmer’s markets and produce stands around Acadiana. Some folks are unfamiliar with this elongated green squash variety, but those in the know look forward to it every autumn season. Time for a Stuffed Goo-Gootz.
For most of us, cucuzza is pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled—CUH-coo-za”, but this vegetable is actually a Sicilian variety and any good Italian would call it a goo-gootz.”Who’s to argue? Certainly not a Louisiana boy like me who refers to mirliton as MAL-e-tawn.
I’ve used this squash in a variety of Cajun recipes that are interchangeable with zucchini. Peeling, seeding and chopping the cucuzza is the standard prep work needed and from there the recipe variations are endless. But when I saw the oversized goo-gootz at Fresh Pickin’s market I began thinking about a Stuffed Goo-Gootz in a dramatic recipe presentation.
Stuffing bell peppers, eggplant and squash, especially mirliton, is a very common Cajun recipe. With these goo-gootz, I decided to go with a rice-based stuffing featuring an all Louisiana line-up of ingredients; fresh pork sausage, pecans, spicy tasso, and the holy trinity of vegetables to make this Stuffed Goo-Gootz a classic Cajun recipe.
Anyway you say it, these stuffed cucuzza, uh, goo-gootz, translate into a flavorful one-dish Cajun meal.
- 4 large cucuzza squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- ½ cup diced celery
- ½ cup diced bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- ½ cup diced tasso or smoked ham
- 1 pound fresh (uncooked) pork sausage or ground pork
- 6 cups cooked Louisiana long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, [url:1]see recipe here[/url
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup diced green onion tops
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Wash the squash and using a sharp knife, slice the top one-third of the squash lengthwise revealing the inside. Remove any visible seeds and brush with olive oil. Place the squash on a foil-lined baking tray and cover with foil. Place in the hot oven for 30 minutes, or until it begins to soften. Once the squash is tender, remove from the oven and using a small spoon, scoop out the inner meat of the squash leaving a cavity for stuffing. Chop the scooped-out squash into small chunks and reserve for later use. Place the whole squash cavities back onto the baking sheet and reserve for later stuffing.
- In a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat, bring the oil to temperature and add the onions. Once the onions become translucent, add the reserved squash, celery, bell pepper, parsley, and garlic, and stir for 3 minutes. Add the tasso and pork sausage and continue stirring until it just begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the cooked rice along with the chicken stock and stir to incorporate all. Add the seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the skillet and continue cooking for another 5 minutes as the mixture steams. Uncover and add the pecans and onion tops. Stir to combine.
- Spoon the stuffing mixture into the squash cavities and cover. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes until the tops begin to brown. Serve with hot French bread.
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