Yields: Approximately 12 to 15 (depending on size)
Prep Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 40 min
Comfort food is sometimes needed. Here is a recipe from my family in Italy with small changes to offer a gluten-free alternative. This tasty recipe can be fried or baked. You can use your favorite type of squash for this recipe - we like Butternut Squash. If you are not a squash fan, you can substitute with chickpeas or cauliflower! You will need a scale as measurements are in grams.
500 g Butternut Squash
1 to 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
50 g Smoked Scamorza (we’ve also used mozzarella or ricotta), cut into cubes
100 g Gluten-free Panko breadcrumbs
100 g Parmigiano Reggiano
1 Large Egg
1 Tablespoon Fresh Sage leaves, minced (can used dry - 1 Tbs fresh chopped sage = 1 Tsp dried sage)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Gluten-free Panko breadcrumbs (you can sub with cornmeal flour instead for a more crispy result) to roll the zucca balls
Sunflower Oil to fry
Prepare oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 Degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Using a large, sturdy knife, cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits from each half and discard (or save for roasting).
Brush squash, with olive oil, coating the entire surface of the squash (inside and out). Transfer squash to parchment-lined sheet pan, flat side down, and roast 30 to 45 minutes or until tender.
While the squash is baking, mince the sage leaves and cut the smoked scamorza cheese into cubes.
Remove squash from the oven and allow to cool. Scoop flesh from the skin and place in a large mixing bowl.
Once the squash has cooled, add breadcrumbs, parmigiano, egg, and sage to the squash. Knead the mixture with your hands to mix all the ingredients well, then add salt and black pepper to taste. With your hands, form small balls of about 40 g each (use your 1/8 measuring cup) inserting a few cubes of the smoked scamorza in each ball. Close the zucca ball so as to seal the cheese inside and form a round shape. Place the zucca balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Add the gluten free panko breadcrumbs to a baking dish for rolling.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Roll each zucca ball in the breadcrumbs and place in the skillet - they should sizzle when they hit the oil - then turn head down to medium or medium-low. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Use a fork to flip the zucca balls to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Remember to fry a few zucca balls at a time to prevent the oil temperature from falling too much. When they are golden brown, drain them on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve hot!
Storage: If you have any leftovers, which is highly unlikely, place them in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2 days. Before serving, heat them in the oven.
Baked: The Zucca Balls can also be baked in an oven, preheated at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes to 30 minutes.
As you can see from the picture, we like serving these zucca balls and other variations with Creme Fraiche, a luxuriously French cream!
Butternut Squash: Provides vitamin A, C, and various minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Butternut squash is also a good source of vitamin E and various B vitamins. The nutritional content makes it beneficial for digestion, blood pressure, and for healthy skin and hair, among others.
Sage: An herb from the mint family and native to the Mediterranean region. Because of its healing properties, ancient Rome used sage to help with digestion, heal ulcers, and soothe a sore throat, to name a few. The Chines used sage to treat colds, joint pain, and kidney and liver issues.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: (see our Blog Post "The Power of Olive Oil … Traditional Family Remedies!") they don’t call it “pure gold” for nothing!