Time for Tenerumi Soup

Michele Scicolone (September 13, 2009)
Tenerumi, the vines of the cucuzza, are made into a delicious Sicilian soup

          Fresh sheep’s milk ricotta still warm from the dairy, artichokes so tender you can eat them whole, and tenerumi cooked into a soup -- my friend Salvatore, who comes from Sicily, was listing the foods he missed the most. I couldn’t help him with the first two, but, I told him, I had just seen tenerumi (also spelled tinirumi) in the market.

            Tenerumi are the leaves, buds, and vines of the cucuzza, a pale green squash that can grow as long as 6 feet.  The plants grow rapidly and produce an abundance of vegetables and vines.  The cucuzza itself doesn’t have much flavor and Sicilian cooks make it into ciambotta (a vegetable stew), or use it to make a sweet green preserve for pastries called zuccata.  The tenerumi are mild tasting, too, but they add a nice texture to a simple soup that Sicilians make this time of year.  My husband, 100% Sicilian, loved it.

            Look for tenerumi at produce stores in Italian neighborhoods, or at the Greenmarket.  I bought two big bunches at the Migliorelli Farm stand in Union Square.  If you can’t find tenerumi, Swiss chard would also be good in this simple soup.  


            The first cool nights of September are ideal this satisfying Sicilian soup.  It’s good with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, or if you prefer, some grated pecorino cheese.

Serves 4 to 6

2 large bunches tenerumi (about 2-1/2 pounds)


1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped tomatoes

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 ounces spaghetti, broken into bite-size pieces

6 large fresh basil leaves, chopped

            Discard the tough vines, tendrils, and stems of the tenerumi and wash the leaves and tender buds.  Chop them into bite size pieces. 

            In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to boiling.  Add the greens and salt to taste.  Return the water to boiling and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. 


            In a large skillet, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until tender and golden.  Stir in the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 10 minutes.

            Pour the tomato sauce into the pot with the greens.  Stir in the pasta.  Cook 10 minutes more or until the pasta is tender.   Stir in the basil.  Serve hot or at room temperature.