Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Zucchini Parmesan

It's been five months since I wrote my last post!

Since then, John came to New York from Atlanta with his swing band from The Lovett School

John, Second from Left

to perform in the 2010 Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center,


left to study in China for fourteen months, an experience he's sharing in his blog,

and a cold spring turned into a very hot summer, followed by what seems to be an early fall.


John, Vic, and Clarke at Sea Island 1997

I didn't stop cooking during all this time - no, not at all. I was just extra-busy at work and took a break from writing.

I think this recipe was worth the wait.

Last year's blight stopped even one tomato from rearing its head in the garden,

Summer 2009

but this year five tomato plants yielded enough fruit for us to eat lots of tomatoes for the last six weeks of summer and also make a few quarts of plain homemade tomato sauce.

We put in a couple of zucchini plants so they would be ready with the tomatoes, and when I found a locally-made whole milk mozzarella at our local farmstand, The Berry Patch on Route 22 in Stephentown, New York,

I started thinking about the surprisingly delicious zucchini parmesan Peggy and I ate in a restaurant on West 27th Street for lunch one day.

Before I opted to make it the same way I make eggplant in the summer, I checked to see if Marcella had any ideas.

It turns out she has a recipe called "Zucchini, Parmesan Style" in Marcella's Italian Kitchen.

This is my favorite Marcella book after Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which is basically a consolidation of her first two books, The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking (neither of which you could persuade me to give away as all the recipes did not make it into the combination).  Essentials is a primer on Italian cooking; Marcella's Italian Kitchen is the way Marcella cooks in her home.

In this recipe the zucchini is cut lengthwise rather than across into rounds, and instead of breading the pieces of zucchini, they are fried with no coating

and layered with thin pieces of whole-milk mozzarella,

a sauce made from tomatoes, onions, and parsley,

and - this is brilliant - a mixture of eggs beaten with parmesan cheese and a little black pepper.

I promise you - this one's a keeper!

In this recipe, Marcella Hazan suggests using unpeeled zucchini and soaking them in water for 20 minutes to loosen any grit that is on them.  However, I peel my zucchini to eliminate this problem.

Zucchini Parmesan
Adapted from Marcella's Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan

1-1/2 pounds zucchini, peeled
Vegetable oil for frying the zucchini (I use grapeseed)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1-2/3 to 2 cups canned Italian peeled plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice or 2 cups plain homemade tomato sauce
2 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (real aged Italian parmesan cheese)
10 ounces whole-milk mozzarella, cut into thin slices

Trim the ends on both sides of each zucchini, and cut lengthwise into slices 1/4-inch thick. If any zucchini is extremely long, cut that across into pieces that will comfortably fit into the bottom of the frying pan you are going to use.

If you have zucchini that has lots of seeds in them, slice until you get to the part that has tons of seeds and then don't use any more.

Put enough vegetable oil into your skillet to come 1/2 inch up the side of the pan. Heat the oil until it is hot, then cook the zucchini slices on both sides until they turn a light golden brown. Don't crowd the pan while you are frying. Remove the zucchini slices, and blot on a paper-towel-lined plate.

I must warn you that when I fry the zucchini, it does splatter all over the top of my stove. I don't think you can avoid this so just be prepared to clean up when you are done. This recipe really is worth it.

While the zucchini is frying, in a separate small saute pan or small saucier, heat the 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and cook the chopped onion until it turns pale gold. Add the parsley, stir, add the tomatoes or homemade tomato sauce, salt if not already salted, and turn the heat to low. Cook until the sauce thickens and the oil floats free, about 20 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Add all but 1-1/2 tablespoons of the grated parmesan cheese to the eggs, add some pepper, and beat.

Spread a little tomato sauce over the bottom of a baking dish. Here I used a rounded Pyrex dish that I estimated would hold all the zucchini. You can use a rectangular dish - probably around a 2-quart size - but please estimate that for yourself remembering the contents of the pan will bubble up while it is baking.

Next, add a layer of the fried zucchini, cover the zucchini with slices of mozzarella - keeping in mind that it will cloak the zucchini as it melts, so the slices of cheese don't have to touch each other. Smear some tomato sauce over the mozzarella, and then add some of the egg and cheese mixture, spreading it with a spoon.

Repeat this procedure in the same sequence, ending with a layer of zucchini lightly covered with tomato sauce over which you sprinkle the reserved 1-1/2 tablespoons of grated parmesan.

Bake in the uppermost level of an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the dish sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Italians don't favor food as piping hot as Americans so Marcella suggests that this dish is also excellent when served at room temperature.

Print recipe


  1. Well hello there! It's so nice to hear from you again. And oh, how you have come back. I can not wait to try this recipe. I do have one of the wonderful books you mention... Clearly I need to complete the collection. Zucchini Parmesan looks absolutely delicious.
    **ps. So happy to hear of your tomato bounty**

  2. Victoria, you know I LOVE Marcella so I will definitely try this one. Thanks!

  3. Ok it's breakfast-time and I really really really want a big plate of that Vic! It looks divine.

    I love the photo-essay update. It's amazing how much life happens in 5 months isn't it?

  4. Glad you're back. Happy blogging.

  5. So good to see you posting again!

    Your tomatoes are making me swoon. They are gorgeous. I'll be making this dish as soon as possible. It looks irresistible!


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