Italian Squash vs. Zucchini

Zucchini is a variety of summer squash commonly used in Italian cooking. Some recipes actually refer to it as "Italian squash." However, other varieties of summer squash are sometimes called Italian squash as well. As with many other food plants, the names for zucchini, summer squash and Italian squash evolved colloquially and are not especially precise.

Fresh zucchini. (Image: Anton Ignatenco/iStock/Getty Images)

Summer vs. Winter Squash

Summer squash. (Image: Keith Levit/Keith Levit Photography/Getty Images)

Summer squash varieties include zucchini, patty pans, yellow crookneck and eight ball squash. Zucchini and yellow squash in particular are sometimes referred to as "Italian squash." Summer squash tends to have relatively thin skin and may be eaten either raw or cooked. Winter squash varieties include pumpkins, acorn squash, delicata squash, spaghetti squash and hubbard squash. You should cook them before eating them. They are wonderful in soups and casseroles, or simply roasted and enjoyed with butter or high-quality olive oil.

Italian Recipes

Squash and blossoms. (Image: Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Italian recipes using squash range from very simple to quite complex. One simple, traditional Italian recipe involves stewing zucchini with olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs, such as parsley or basil. Other Italian squash recipes combine winter squash with tomato sauce and cheese. Some recipes use the flower of the squash plant, or squash blossoms. Zucchini may also be lightly sauteed and tossed with pasta, herbs and cheese; breaded and fried; or tossed with herbs and olive oil and roasted.


Kabocha squash. (Image: Image Source/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Although both the summer and winter squash that we commonly use for cooking are indigenous to the Western hemisphere, they became an integral part of European cooking before growing popular in the United States. The variety of summer squash that we know as zucchini was first grown in Italy sometime during the 18th century. Italian immigrants to the United States carried seeds and began planting zucchini and other squash varieties on American soil during the early 20th century, building profitable agricultural businesses, especially in California.


Zucchini. (Image: Peter Zijlstra/iStock/Getty Images)

The English word for zucchini comes from the Italian word "zucca," which means "squash" or "gourd" in Italian. Zucchini simply means "little squash." The important role that Italian cooks and farmers played in breeding and popularizing zucchini explains why the Italian name for it is used interchangeably with summer squash.

Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.