Italian baked zucchini is a quick meal that anyone can make and everyone will love. What is not to love about zucchini, marinara and cheese!
Italian Baked Zucchini is a delicious way to make zucchini and definitely a zucchini recipe to keep in your repertoire. This is basically a zucchini parmesan but without the breading and my favorite recipe to make with zucchini.
Italians love making baked vegetables with tomatoes and cheese and this baked zucchini is no exception.
Now even though this is called a baked zucchini, the zucchini is cooked first either in a skillet or on a grill pan. You bake everything together after preparing your ingredients until it is bubbly and the cheese is nice and melted.
This is also not a layered dish like a lasagna. Very important distinction! The delicious part of this Italian baked zucchini recipe is that you get equal amounts of zucchini, sauce and cheese in each bite.
The flavors in this Italian zucchini recipe are so incredible and it is so easy to make. Most of the cooking and the prep work to get this dish ready can done before the baking. I need to add this to my meals that are not boring list that I like to share with readers who are stuck on the same tired meal plans.
If you do want to makes this ahead of time, just grill or saute your zucchini first, then gather your other ingredients and have them ready and then keep everything refrigerated until it is time to assemble .
The Best Marinara Sauce to Use for this Baked Zucchini Recipe:
For the sauce, you can use any marinara sauce recipe you love or your favorite jarred marinara (there are so many amazing ones like RAO's that are from Italy and so delicious). My favorite homemade marinara is also really easy and so delicious!
That recipe is for meatballs and sauce but you can follow the instructions for the sauce portion only.
You will want to make sure you have enough marinara available to go over the zucchini and some extra to go over some pasta if you are serving some on the side (my favorite way!) Maybe you want to serve it with bread to soak up the sauce!
Here are the steps in making this Italian zucchini recipe:
The first thing you want to do is grill or pan fry your zucchini strips. You can use a grill pan, grill or saute pan for this step. This starts the cooking process for this zucchini since it doesn't spend too much time in the oven later on.
Once you have cooked your zucchini, the next step is placing it in a baking dish. You are no going to start adding those delicious layers on top. First you start with adding your marinara sauce. Remember, this is not lasagna so you are only making a single layer of zucchini as the base.
Once you get your marinara sauce on the zucchini, you are going to add your mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. It looks like a mess but it will come out beautiful once all the cheese has melted. Trust me!
After all of your ingredients are added to your zucchini, you just place it in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 minutes. You can also bake it for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
As you can see from the pictures above, this zucchini dish will start off looking a little messy when you are prepping and assembling everything. Once this goes into the oven, the cheese that melts over everything will bring it all together and it ends up looking beautiful and delicious.
For me, that makes this meal a great one for entertaining or for a special dinner for family. Really, any dish that is served up with hot bubbling cheese will always be a winner and popular with almost everyone.
If you would like ideas of what to serve with this, say if you want the whole Italian style dinner, here are my suggestions and what we do at our house:
- Spinach and Mushroom Salad . Now there is already a vegetable in this zucchini dish but a spinach salad in this instance acts like more of a salad than as an extra vegetable.
The mushrooms in this salad are delicious too because they marinated ahead of time in lemon juice to soften them. This whole salad is really simple to assemble.
- My olive oil and parmesan restaurant style bread. This one is really easy too! I take store bought boule bread and jazz it up a bit to taste like the delicious bread served at Italian restaurants.
- Warm radicchio and arugula salad. If you don't often eat radicchio (that beautiful little purple lettuce ball you see at the grocery store) then this is a great introduction to it.
Radicchio is naturally bitter so this salad is actually roasted until it wilts and then topped with a sweet balsamic vinegar. It is really delicious!
Italian Baked Zucchini is not just for Summer:
For obvious reasons, this dish is best made in the summer months when zucchini is abundant (I even have a list of my favorite ways to eat zucchini in the summer) but I will make this all year long, even in the winter. For me, this dish is a substitute for Chicken Parmesan and we would eat that all year long so why not zucchini. It is quick to make and delicious
You can find zucchini all year in the grocery stores so you do not have to wait for summer. It is going to be healthier than the chicken version and less expensive.
I hope you give this a try and see just how delicious this dish is! This may become your new favorite quick weeknight meal.
Questions about zucchini:
- Can I leave the skin on the zucchini? Yes, the skin of the zucchini does not need to be removed and contains extra nutrients and fiber making zucchini a healthy choice for meal planning.
- I have lots of zucchini, is it ok to eat a lot of it in a short time? Yes, zucchini is good for you! As long as you are working with cooked zucchini there is no "too much". This recipe is one of many that you can make to utilize this summer vegetable.
- Should zucchini be refrigerated? Yes, zucchini should be refrigerated after buying or harvesting from your garden.
- Do you need to salt zucchini before cooking it? No, zucchini is not bitter like eggplant that many people are familiar with salting before cooking with it. Just prepare your zucchini the same way you would other vegetables. No special treatment needed.
- Can you freeze zucchini? Some people say you can and technically you can after cooking it but the texture will be very soft after thawing so I do not recommend it. You are better off making zucchini pancakes (fritters) if you have an over abundance of zucchini you are trying to use up since it takes a lot to make them.
Italian Baked Zucchini
- 5 small zucchini or 3 large ones
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella Try to use fresh if you can but shredded will work too
- 24 ounces of good quality marinara sauce homemade or jarred sauce
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt and pepper
- ¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan
- Clean and wash your zucchini
- pre-heat a grill pan or a grill to medium heat. If you do not have either than pre-heat a large heavy bottom skillet
- Cut your zucchini lengthwise into ½ inch strips
- drizzle the zucchini with olive oil
- Sprinkle the zucchini with salt and pepper
- Once your grill or pan is ready, add your zucchini and cook for about 3 minutes per side.
- Remove your zucchini from the pan and set aside
- Gently heat your marinara sauce on low heat
- Pre-heat your broiler on high heat
- Grab a large oven safe baking dish
- Scoop ½ cup of your marinara sauce into the baking dish and spread it out evenly
- Next, Add your zucchini slices into the dish side by side but not overlapping. You may need 2 baking dishes if your zucchini are larger.
- Now take a tablespoon of your marinara and place on each slice of zucchini and spread it out. Keep doing this until all the zucchini has sauce
- Now cut your mozzarella into thin strips and place over the zucchini. Don't worry too much about neatness here since it all melts
- Next, sprinkle your freshly grated parmesan evenly over top of this
- Once your zucchini are all dressed with sauce and cheese, place the zucchini under the broiler until the cheese melts and is bubbly and just turning brown (about 3-4 minutes).
- Remove from the oven and serve with a side of pasta and the remaining marinara sauce