I’ve always been more of a lasagna gal when it comes to Italian casserole dishes, but this zucchini parm has really changed my mind. I’ve eaten my fair share of eggplant parm too, but I think I find the texture of zucchini more pleasing than eggplant. The veggies are baked, which is a really nice alternative to the usual frying (in terms of both preservation of vegetable taste and of kitchen not smelling like a diner.) This was inspired by a recipe featured in the New York Times in July, but I used my own tried and true sauce recipe instead and jazzed up the cheese in the casserole itself. I make this sauce at least once a week, it’s just as good on pasta as it is on pizza. Or right out of the pot on a spoon (so what who cares, I’m Italian!) Final thoughts: this is a great dish if you’re in the mood for something hearty, but not quite as intense as a giant bowl of pasta. It’s also great if you’re serving someone who is avoiding gluten. It is not great for vegans. There’s a lot of cheese up in here. To the recipe! Recipe inspired by/adapted from the New York Times
Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium, then add the onion and sauté until the onion is translucent (5-7 minutes.) Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so, then add tomatoes, thyme, and basil, stirring well. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook until mixture comes to a boil. Add wine, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil again, Return heat to medium, cover, and let cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more wine, salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Prep the zucchini: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Slice off the ends of the zucchini and cut them in half crosswise, then lengthwise into 1/4 to 1/3 inch-thick slices. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper and drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil. Place zucchini on the baking sheets in one layer. Roast for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees F.
Put it all together: Rub a 2-quart gratin with the half garlic clove and about a tablespoon of olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish. Lay a third of the zucchini in an even layer over the sauce. Spoon another 1/4 cup of sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan and a third of the pecorino and both mozzarella cheeses. Repeat for 2 more layers, ending with the remaining cheeses. There will be leftover sauce. (Aren’t you lucky! Make some pasta later this week and then go to town on the sauce. Or just break out a baguette. You won’t be sorry.) Drizzle on a tablespoon of olive oil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to firm up a bit. I like to top my portions with a dollop of sauce and cheese, and thick slices of chewy bread to mop up every last bit from the bowl, but you can listen to your heart.
Rebecca Firkser is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, among them Food52, TASTE, Edible Manhattan, Extra Crispy, The Strategist, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl.