If you see those green guys everywhere but can’t figure out what to do with them, this one’s for you.
Zucchinis are low in calories and they’re a great source of manganese and vitamin C, in addition to a host of other nutrients. Plus, who doesn’t like a little extra fiber?
Here are a few ways to use them that are easy and delicious.
Pasta with Zucchini
This is an Italian classic. For a pound of pasta, about 6-8 zucchinis should do the trick. We like a lot of zucchini in this one.
- A box of pasta (1lb)
- Decent olive oil
- Slice the zucchini into pieces. We just cut it horizontally, into relatively thin discs.
- Salt the slices.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Just cover the bottom of the pan. When it’s hot, sauté the zucchini
- Boil the water for the pasta on another burner and follow the directions on the box. When it’s done strain it but do not rinse it. That extra starch adds to the sauce.
- Once you’ve strained the pasta, throw it back in the pot. You’ll have to do the zucchini in batches to sauté it. As each batch is done, remove it from the oil and add it to the pasta. Stir it in because the oil left on the zucchini keeps the pasta from clumping. The zucchini is ready when it’s soft and starting to brown. Don’t let it get too dark or it turns bitter.
- As soon as all of the zucchini is mixed in with the pasta, add Parmesan or chicken. Shrimp works well too. We like it plain sometimes but if we need protein we add it in. Beef is too heavy though. You won’t taste the zucchini.
Everyone has their own style for these. Some people dip them in egg, then flour and deep fry them. If you choose that option, slice them lengthwise. They hold up better that way.
Some people use the egg dip, followed by a coating of bread crumbs mixed with Parmesan. Then they bake them. 475 degrees. 5 min then flip. 5-10 min longer. When they look golden brown and crisp, they’re ready.
We like to cover a cookie sheet with edges in a thin layer of olive oil or cooking spray and spread the slices in the pan. Just 1 layer. Bake at 350 degrees. Check them after 15 min and flip them. They should be golden on both sides.
Unless you are the perfect slicer, they will not all be ready at exactly the same time. Take them out as they brown. It may be a pain in your patoot but they’ll all be good. If you just let it go until they’re all ready, you’ll lose 1/4 of the batch to burning
If you want them to be flavored dip them in the egg then use either the flour or the bread crumbs mixed with cayenne or powdered ranch mix. Any dry seasoning will work. If you’re sautéing or frying use the flour. Bread crumbs in the oven. That’s the easiest way to go.
We also like to take the soft lightly browned ones and smother a chicken cutlet or strips with them on a sheet of foil. Then close the foil over it and bake it. About 20 min at 350. Open it up at the end. Sprinkle with Parmesan and broil until brown. Sometimes we add caramelized onions to the zucchini before smothering the chicken.
We also like to add them on top of a sautéed piece of one of the more bland fish. Turbot is amazing. Just dredge the fillet in a light coating of flour and sauté in olive oil. Add the zucchini chips at the end, just to heat them.
Grill them or add them on a skewer.
Zucchini as Pasta
This is a winner. Whole foods sells them already cut into spaghetti ribbons. That makes life much easier. There are tools available that can help to cut them into spaghetti ribbons too.
(A mandolin probably has a setting that works and there are contraptions at William Sonoma for this very purpose. They tend to be pricy but if you love the idea of zucchini instead of high calorie pasta, it’s worth it. We have never used one. Primarily because we can buy it already cut, but also because we have an aversion to tools with sharp blades like that. You don’t control the blade. You control the item being sliced. Fruits and vegetables give off water when they’re cut and they can be slippery. We find the idea of heading towards a super sharp blade on a slippery plastic track with a slippery item, to be a risky proposition. A cut from one of those buggers is no joke. Stitches are frequently required. That’s a personal choice though. Plenty of people use them without issue. )
- Coat a skillet with olive oil and sauté them until they are soft. We like them very soft but the texture is up to you. Once they’re done, treat them just like spaghetti. Our current fave is a couple of slices of mozzarella and some Parmesan added to the pan at the last minute. Meat sauce is good too. Pesto is popular as well. Pick what you like. Recently people have been slicing them lengthwise and roasting them briefly. Once they are cooked but not too brown, they use them like lasagna noodles.
- Grease an oven proof dish. Square or rectangular. Place a few slices in the dish for the bottom layer. Add tomato sauce and ricotta or mozzarella, then another layer of zucchini and repeat until it’s just below the edge. Cover in sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan and bake it for about 1/2 an hour at 350. Check it at 20 min.
That was a basic style. Add meat or chicken. Make your own version with your favorites.
Another classic. Cut a zucchini in half and hollow out the middle with a spoon. Don’t go too deep. You want a sturdy base.
There are as many ways of filling them as there are chefs. Ground beef mixed with bread crumbs, sautéed onions and cheese. Parmesan and or mozzarella is a standard. Ground pork, turkey or chicken work too. Some people use sausage, while others skip the meat altogether.
Ricotta and bread crumbs is a popular choice. As is meat mixed with rice and flavorings like onions and garlic or spices.
Greek style would use ground lamb and feta with oregano and either bread crumbs or rice.
Finally, Zucchini Fritters.
Also, really easy.
.* On this one proportions matter.
For 4 cups of shredded zucchini (leave them on a paper towel while you collect the other items. You want to remove excess water
- 2/3 c flour
- 2 lg eggs
You can add a medium hand full of chopped scallions or chives. Or some shredded or grated cheese. Don’t add too much though. Cheese burns quickly.
- Mix the ingredients in a bowl and cook large spoonfuls like pancakes.
- In a skillet with hot oil.
- Plop in a scoop of the mix.
- Brown one side. Flip and brown the other side once they’re done.
Eat them plain or with a dip.
They make a great base for eggs Benedict. Just top with a poached egg and a slice of ham. The hollandaise sauce can be a beast though. That’s also where the calories start to add up. You can find recipes for hollandaise on Google.
If you are making a stew or a stir fry and you want more food without many more calories, toss in cubes of zucchini.
At the beginning of summer, zucchinis offer another treat. The zucchini flower. We will address those delicacies in May.
Enjoy your zucchini