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Chef makes Brioche French Toast With Rum Cream and Almond Crunch, Cucuzza with Pasta

Have you heard of cucuzza? Chef Paul Vida from Ivy Tech Culinary School and Maci Runkel, Ivy Tech Culinary School student, stopped by to make us a delicious pasta dish using this Italian summer squash. They also made Brioche French Toast With Rum Cream and Almond Crunch.

Aldy Labrador, Director of Business Development for McFarling Foods, joined us as well to discuss how McFarling has helped their restaurant partners during COVID. 

Cucuzza With Pasta (6-8 servings)


Cucuzza     Or zucchini 1 each 3’ about 6 cups   3 about 6 cups   Peeled and large diced – best when picked young.   Peeled and large diced – large, but tender zucchini – need about 6 cups large diced
Olive oil ¼ cup    
Garlic 5 cloves   Chopped
Onions 1 large   Large cut, the texture is important
Potatoes 6 each   Small red or yellow potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
Tomatoes 6 each   Peeled and cut into 8ths depending on the size of the tomato– garden ripened are preferred, type of tomato will subtly affect the flavor
Bay leaf 1 each    
Crushed red pepper ½ tsp.   Or to taste
Salt and pepper To taste   Be generous
Fresh basil ¼ cup   Or to taste – chopped
Pecorino Romano cheese     For serving
Pasta such as Cavatappi, Farfalle, or other small shape 1 pound   Cooked and drained There is a lot of room for judgement here. You can always cook more if you like a lot of pasta or want to feed 8 people.
Bread     For serving – whole grain sourdough is ideal


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering
  2. Add the garlic and onions, cook until the onions are soft, stir occasionally so garlic doesn’t burn
  3. Add the cucuzza, or zucchini and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the squash becomes translucent
  4.   Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper
  5. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat for a gentle simmer
  6. Cook for about 30 minutes, checking for the squash to become tender but not mushy
  7. Add the pasta and fresh basil and bring back to a simmer
  8. Serve hot with grated Pecorino Romano, and a grind of black pepper and a dash of hot sauce
  9. Crusty bread is always welcome

Brioche French Toast With Rum Cream and Almond Crunch (8 servings)


Brioche 8 slices    
Eggs 4 each    
Heavy cream ¼ cup    
Brown sugar ¼ cup    
Vanilla extract 1 teaspoon    
Pink pepper ¼ teaspoon   Freshly ground  – or to taste
Lemon zest ½ teaspoon   Finely grated or chopped
Whipped cream      
Heavy cream 2 cups    
Dark rum 2 Tablespoons    
Granulated sugar 2 teaspoons    
Almond crunch      
Butter 3.5 ounces    
Sugar 3.5 ounces    
Honey 1 Tablespoon    
Milk 1 Tablespoon    
Sliced almonds 3.5 ounces   Lightly toasted
Maple syrup     As needed


  1. Make the almond crunch – combine the butter, sugar, honey, and milk in a saucepan , bring to 230F degrees, stir in the almonds and remove from the heat, lay out on a sheet pan with a silpat and bake at 350F until golden brown – the topping should crisp when cooled
  2. Whip the cream with the rum and sugar until medium peaks – set aside in the refrigerator
  3. Combine all of the French toast ingredients, except for the brioche well and place in a pie pan for dipping the brioche
  4. Heat a skillet to medium high and brush with butter
  5. Dip the brioche into the mix on both sides, do not allow the bread to soak up the liquid
  6. Cook in the skillet until golden on both sides
  7. Place on plates, top with whipped cream, a drizzle of syrup and the almond crunch