The Zucchini with Ribs

Costata Romanesco zucchini, whole and sliced.

Costata Romanesco is hands down my favorite zucchini.

I know that might sound strange, for zucchini isn’t the most interesting, vibrant, or glamorous of vegetables. Plus everyone likes to complain about how they have just way too much of it. I say to those lucky complainers, “You don’t have squash bugs, for if you did, you’d treasure each and every squash and blossom!” For some of us, the effort to grow zucchini means encounters with hoards of creepy grey bugs and the inevitable early death of one’s struggling plants. So if I’m going to open myself to squash bugs and anxiety over the early demise of my summer squash, then I’m going to grow a zucchini I get excited about.  And Costata Romanesco is it.

There are three things that are special about this old variety. Each squash has ribs, the ridges that run along the long body of each one. A little hard to capture in a photo until you slice them, then you can see them as the ruffled, sculptured edges of each round of squash. I think they look wonderfully fetching and are truly so when a mass of the rounds is jumbled together. It doesn’t matter whether you steam or sauté them, either, because they will taste good.

Another virtue of the Costata Romanesco is its density. Somehow, this variety is less watery and the texture more firm, which makes it a much more satisfying summer squash to eat than others.  Add to that the flavor, and you’re home. The flavor is, well, simply more squash-like. Some describe it as nutty. I think of it as down-to-earth. In any case,  it’s there, and it has real taste, which cannot always be said of more modern squash.

The Costata (meaning ribs) is an Italian heirloom. Lots of companies stock seed packets for this gem. (Johnny’s, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Sustainable Seed Company, Fedco).  Like many heirlooms, it doesn’t always produce as heavily as other zucchini, but the plants are big and robust and if you don’t want a glut of zucchini, why not choose the best and go with what it produces? Actually, I’ve always found that mine make plenty.

And one squash makes a a fast and neat little lunch for one.


One Zucchini Lunch

A One-Zucchino Lunch for One

Time required: about 4 minutes

1 7-inch Costata Romanesco squash

Sea salt

Good olive oil

Fresh herb, such as dill, basil, marjoram

Pine nuts

Freshly ground pepper

Lemon if you wish


Slice the squash crosswise  into rounds about ¼ inch thick or a little more if you like it heftier.

Steam over boiling water for about 3 minutes —taste to make sure it’s done enough for you.

Turn it out onto a plate or better, a shallow bowl.  Season with sea salt, a drizzle of good olive oil, some fresh herb, a few pine nuts, some pepper and a squeeze of lemon if you wish.

That’s it. Sit down and enjoy. Mop up the juices with a piece of bread.


And this is just the beginning. You might add halved Sun Gold tomatoes, thin shavings of Parmesan or aged Gouda cheese, a shower of very young arugula leaves, a slivered squash blossom —or just leave it as is.

9 thoughts on “The Zucchini with Ribs

  1. Simona

    I like this variety for that exact reason: denser and more flavorful than the “regular” dark green one. I am also not sympathetic with complainers: there is so much you can do with zucchini.

  2. Tori

    Here in NC we have another squash predator (in addition to squash bugs) to contend with: squash vine borers. They are even worse, I think, because you can’t even see them to kill them, as they are hiding (and munching!) snugly inside the stem.
    Out of two rows of squash plants, I did not get even one squash this summer.
    So to those complainers-of-squash-abundance I say, tell me where you live. And I will gladly ship you some vine borers, free of charge!

  3. Evodie

    I was looking for the recipe for Zuni stew when I ran across your website and the article about Costata Romanesco zucchini. I just had to comment that I planted a start of it for the first time last spring, and it is not just good tasting but really pretty sliced. Only one plant gave us one or two zucchini each week, just perfect!

  4. Ann

    We had voracious squash vine borers last year but tried 2 tips that I read online and both were successful. One was to wrap newly planted squash with a piece of aluminum foil, tuck down into the soil and up as far as possible. Did a similar technique with a pair of $.50 pantyhose for a thrift shop. Cut in into strips and wrapped the stem with that. One was too tight and stem sort of strangled til we cut it loose. The others worked great, no borers this year and best yields ever!

    1. Deborah Madison Post author

      Intersting solutions! Thank you for sharing. I haven’t had squash borers, but I generally do get the nasty squat bugs. Not this year though – the drought? Moving my garden?
      I don’t know but it’s a huge relieve because the plants do produce lots of Costata Romansco squashes.

  5. Betty

    This is by far my favorite zucchini too and we grow as much of it as we can. Not only is it great in your recipe, it’s also wonderful made into a pureed soup with onions, garlic & vege broth, and it makes sturdy pickles of all sorts, including fermented ones. I can’t get enough. Good luck gardening!


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