Calling all zucchini! Have you found an abundance of fresh zucchini at your local farmer’s market lately? How about in your backyard garden? Here’s a yummy way to use quite a few of those green beauties and enjoy some deliciousness at the same time. The recipe for this dish is based on one from cookbook author, Domenica Marchetti. In the original version, less zucchini is used. My family prefers a dish that’s not too rich so I use quite a bit more zucchini and the ratio of grilled zucchini strips to the sauce is perfect. And I make a gluten-free version. But, really, gluten-free or not …it’s all good.
The first step is to prepare the zucchini for grilling. After the ends are trimmed, each zucchini is cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick strips. I use 8 large zucchini with a total weight of about 5 1/2-pounds. Typically, each zucchini is cut into 3 strips. And if each zucchini measures about 9″ in length, that’s the perfect size for filling the baking dish.
Only one side of each strip is grilled so be sure to season and grill the cut side on each. Also, grill half with horizontal marks and the other half with vertical grill marks for a more visually pleasing dish.
Place the grilled zucchini strips on a tray in a single layer to cool. Set them aside while you work on the sauce. The process is quite simple …the finely chopped onion is sautéed in butter until tender. The flour is then added and the mixture is cooked for a few minutes until golden brown. You can switch it up here to suit your needs. If you are gluten-free, use the gluten-free flour. If not, feel free to use the same amount of regular all-purpose flour. Either way, the resulting béchamel sauce will be rich and delicious.
Once the roux is a golden color, slowly add the milk stirring to combine well. After a quick simmer, the basil, nutmeg, salt & pepper are added to finish it off.
This is where you get to have some fun …it’s like an arts & crafts project. Assuming your baking dish is 13″ by 9″, you should be able to squeeze in 8 grilled zucchini strips per layer. You’ll have a total of 3 layers. Before you begin, take a look at your zucchini and pick out the 8 “best looking” grilled strips …4 with vertical markings and 4 with horizontal markings. Keep them on the side to be used for the top layer.
You’ll have about 2 cups of the white sauce. Start off by spreading about 2/3 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Next, add a layer of zucchini strips with the grilled sides facing up. Then sprinkle half of the shredded mozzarella and half of the parmesan over the entire surface. Repeat with a layer of sauce (it will be quite thick so just apply small dollops evenly over the entire surface) then zucchini strips followed by the remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Finish it off with the rest of the white sauce then the remaining zucchini strips placed so that the top layer shows alternating grill marks.
This can be prepared up to this point early in the day, then pop it in the oven about an hour before serving. So yummy. Just the right amount of richness.
grilled zucchini parmigiana
Adapted from a recipe by Domenica Marchetti
Layered strips of grilled zucchini with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and a basil-infused béchamel.
- 8 very large zucchini (ends trimmed) cut into 1/2" thick slices (about 5 1/2 pounds total)
- olive oil (for coating zucchini strips)
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper (to season zucchini strips)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 3 tablespoons gluten-free flour (or regular all-purpose flour)
- 2 cups whole milk (or reduced-fat milk)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, plus more for topping
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or ground nutmeg)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
- flaky sea salt, for topping
Lightly coat zucchini slices with olive oil on one side (preferably the cut side); season with salt and black pepper. Working in batches, grill zucchini on the rack of a covered grill over high heat on the coated side only for 4 to 8 minutes or until char marks form; remove. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 13" by 9" rectangular baking dish.
To make the white sauce, in a medium saucepan melt butter and cook onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the flour; cook 3 minutes or until light golden brown, stirring constantly. Add the milk, whisking to combine well; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 2 minutes, stirring often. Stir in basil, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat.
To assemble the casserole, start off by spreading a third (about 2/3 cup) of the sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Next, add a layer of zucchini strips with the grilled sides facing up. Then sprinkle half of the shredded mozzarella and half of the parmesan over the entire surface. Repeat with a layer of sauce (it will be quite thick so just apply small dollops evenly over entire surface) then zucchini strips followed by the remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Finish it off with the rest of the white sauce then the remaining zucchini strips placed so that the top layer features alternating grill marks.
Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until bubbling and nicely browned. Remove from the oven; let stand for 20 minutes. Top with additional fresh basil and flaky sea salt.