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Baked Marrow Amatriciana

Don’t be intimidated, a marrow is simply a VERY large zucchini! This is the time of year when every home gardener has ‘Oh, my goodness, soooo much zucchini!’ Well, we urge you to leave a few on the vine and let them grow into marrows. In and of itself, a marrow has a mild flavor and is best set off by a more-than-average tomato sauce: this pancetta-packed amatriciana sauce is just that. Hollow out the marrow, spoon in the tomato sauce, and bake; at the very end, top with fresh mozzarella and serve — summer’s bounty personified!

Baked Marrow Amatriciana

1-2 marrows, cut into 2½-inch thick slices
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese, grated or torn into small pieces (about 8 oz.)
2 tbs. olive oil
5 oz. cubed pancetta or bacon (1½-2 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic clove, chopped
large thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
sprinkle of golden caster sugar
2-3 tbs. red wine vinegar
2 x 14 oz. cans chopped tomatoes
large glass of red wine or red vermouth
pinch of chili flakes

Begin by making the sauce. Heat half the oil in a large pan and sizzle the pancetta for 5 minutes, until just starting to crisp. Then add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and sugar, and cook until the onions are golden. Splash in the vinegar, sizzle for a moment, then tip in the tomatoes. Swoosh the red wine around the tomato tins to wash out every last bit and tip into the sauce. Season and add chili flakes, then simmer for 30 minutes until rich and thick.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400°F. Scoop out the middle of the marrow, leaving a little in the bottom to form a base. Place on a baking dish, drizzle with the remaining olive oil, season and bake for 30 minutes. Spoon the sauce into the middle of each marrow slice, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, scatter over the mozzarella and return to the oven for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and the marrow is tender. (Our cheese didn’t brown, so we quickly put it under the broiler.) If you have extra sauce, put it in a ramekin and bake it along with the marrow.

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