Carmela Centro has to make this huge quantities of this dish – not just because she’s got too many marrows from her allotment, but because her family love it so much. And so will you. The secret ingredient is ground black pepper, which Carmela is very liberal with; you will have to adjust for your own palate, but try and be as generous as you can to create the warmth in this dish.
To prepare the marrow:
1.5kg marrow or the equivalent of large zucchini
sunflower oil or other flavourless oil for frying
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
25g parsley, chopped
2x400g tin whole tomatoes
To assemble the dish:
Plentiful amounts of ground black pepper
50g grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Peel and slice your marrow, sprinkle with salt, and leave it in a colander over a sink for several hours to get rid of the plentiful amounts of water contained in a marrow. Pat dry – don’t bother rinsing.
Add oil to a saute pan; it should cover the vegetables when they’re being fried, so it should be about an inch or two centimetres deep. Heat the oil so when you stick the end of a wooden spoon into it, the handle bubbles.
Fry the marrow in batches. You want the slices to turn colour, but don’t burn them. Leave them on kitchen paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
At some point (while the marrows salt, after they’ve been fried, it really is a tolerant dish) make the tomato sauce.
Use olive oil and saute the garlic and chopped parsley over a brisk heat. Add whole chopped tomatoes and crush them (tins of ready chopped toms don’t use as good quality fruit) with your hands, like Carmela, or with a wooden spoon. Add a couple of tins of water and simmer until the sauce is thick – for a good 30 minutes.
Use a medium size baking dish – around 20 by 30 cms – oil it and then start layering the marrow with tomato and generous amounts of parmigiano cheese. Finish each layer with a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Once you’ve reached the top of your baking dish, cover a with a final layer of cheese and a dribble of oil.
Bake in a 180 C/gas mark 4 oven for around 40 minutes to an hour, until it’s golden and bubbling.
And watch it disappear in minutes. Carmela’s final note is: this is delicious hot, warm, room temperature and cold. It is wonderful in sandwiches.