Rice with Cucuzza, Meat and Tomato    

Riso con Zucca e Ragu’ 

Riso ca Cucuzza,Pumaroru e ca Carni  

There are summer and winter squash. The tender summer squash usually grows to less than a foot and come in many colors from a pale green to a light yellow-orange. Home grown squash can reach a length of 4 feet and in Sicilian they are called cucuzze. Some varieties of summer squash are available all year around.  

Winter squash has a tough skin and big seeds inside. The thick skin protects the squash so can be stored for long time. It is delicious and versatile and in fact winter squash can be cooked in a variety of ways.  

Both summer and winter squash can be grilled, fried, boiled, cooked with pasta, stuffed with meat or vegetables or transformed into a side dish (contorno) to couple with chicken, veal or fish.
Squash has a good nutritional value and in fact they are a source of iron, vitamin A and riboflavin.    

To prepare rice with cucuzza, meat and tomatoes, the small zucchini are preferred: they are 4 to 6 inches long and have a dark or pale green skin. Zucchini are very popular for the delicate flavor and for the easiness of the preparation.






  • 1 lb. zucchini (about 3 medium or 4 small)  
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil  
  • 1 medium onion chopped finely 
  • 2 garlic cloves minced 
  • 1 lb. ground beef 
  • 1 can 28 oz. Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 lb Caroline white rice or arborio  
  • Salt and pepper to taste 




The Rice

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the rice.

In a 5 ½ quart sauté pan, over medium heat, place 3 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt. When the water boils add 1 lb. of rice and cook for 16 minutes or follow manufacturer recommendations. Drain rice place in a bowl and keep warm until ready to serve.

Cooked Rice


The Zucchini
Place the zucchini in a basin with cold water for a few minutes.
Using a brush, gently scrub the zucchini under running water to remove any sand or down, the soft feathery substance that grows on the soft skin of the zucchini. Drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Cut off the stems and cut each zucchini in 3 or 4 pieces; then cut each piece lengthwise into halves and chop the halves into thick slices. Set on the side. 



The Tomato, Meat and Zucchini Sauce
Over medium-high heat, in a 6 quart heavy sauce pot combine the olive oil and the onions, cook for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and after 2 minutes add the ground beef, stirring continuously until it begins to brown, use a wooden spoon to mash any clumps of meat. Cook it until chopped meat is medium brown.  

Add the tomato, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste; heat to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Sauce should be a little watery, if necessary add some water to cover the meat. Remove and discard bay leaf.

GarlicChopped TomatoChopped Meat

Add the zucchini, if necessary some more water, cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until zucchini are cooked; and add some salt and pepper in needed. 


Serving Suggestions
Plate individual portions of rice top with an abundant amount of sauce and serve immediately along with grated cheese and red pepper flakes on the side. 



Rice with zucchini, chop meat and tomato sauce can be served as a soup, a minestra

A pot of boiling water has to be kept on the side, because it will be needed in this preparation. 

To prepare the minestra, prepare the tomato and meat sauce as per above directions.

Then add the zucchini and the rice to the sauce, and 8 cups of hot water.

Bring to a boil, than lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


If soup becomes too dry, add some hot water. 
Liquid should be at least 1 inch above the rice at all times.
If needed, add more salt and some freshly grounded black pepper.

Wait a few minutes before dishing it out. Serve with grated cheese and peperoncino on the side. 

Gratd Cheese