3 Italian zucchini recipes for a bumper crop

If you’ve ever grown your own zucchini, then you know how prolific the plant’s fruit can grow -- so plentiful you can’t give them away.

Published: 02nd September 2016 11:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd September 2016 11:37 AM   |  A+A-

If you’ve ever grown your own zucchini, then you know how prolific the plant’s fruit can grow -- so plentiful you can’t give them away. There are many uses for this versatile summer vegetable overshadowed of late because of the faddishness of other vegetables. Don’t ignore the noble zucchini only because it’s so familiar. What might not be familiar are zucchini recipes to make use of it.

Zucchini is a summer squash, a soft-skinned member of the Cucurbitacae, a New World plant that also includes the hard winter squashes such as pumpkin. Cucurbita pepo, the Latin binomial of zucchini, made its voyage across the Atlantic in the 16th century; it was in the Mediterranean that it became a famous vegetable.

Zucchini is one kind of summer squash. Others include yellow crooknecks, smooth yellow straightnecks, yellow squash (summer squash) and pattypan squash. The main difference between summer and winter squashes is that summer squash is soft-skinned and the flesh is tender because they are harvested while immature. Winter squashes are thick-skinned, their flesh is hard, and they are not harvested until maturity.

Zucchini is an Italian name, the diminutive of zucca, the name used today for winter squashes, but before the introduction of the New World squashes zucca did not refer to squashes but to several other Old World plants such as colocynth (Citrullis colocynthis), bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceria) or muskmelon (Cucumis melo).

Here are three all-purpose recipes from Italy, the land that gave the vegetable both its Italian and English names, recipes that will win you acclaim.

Zucchini and Tomatoes

Two abundant summer vegetables deserve each other, so here zucchini and tomatoes join for a quick recipe that is delicious at room temperature and can be served as an antipasto.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time:15 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: 2 to 3 servings


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 zucchini, peeled and thinly sliced

1 plum tomato, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves


1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook, stirring frequently, the onions and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil, reduce the heat to medium, then cook, turning occasionally, until the zucchini is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Variation: Cook 4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise, in a preheated cast iron skillet with a little olive oil until crispy golden brown. Remove, cut into thirds and set aside. Add 1 large tomato, sliced, and 1 finely chopped garlic clove to the skillet and cook 30 seconds. Remove to add to the zucchini and toss with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint and season with salt.

Grilled Marinated Zucchini

When I have my grill going I’ll grill everything in sight in the summer. Why not zucchini? This dish can be served as either an antipasto or a side dish.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook and resting time: 5 minutes plus 2 hours

Total time: 20 minutes, plus 2 hours resting

Yield: 3 servings


5 small zucchini (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices lengthwise

Extra virgin olive oil for brushing

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

For the dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1 garlic clove, very finely chopped


1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes.

2. Brush the slices of zucchini with olive oil and grill until black grid marks appear on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and arrange on a platter. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Drizzle the dressing over and let rest for 2 hours before serving.

Zucchini with Lemon and Mint

Here the zucchini is cooked with a deliciously tart combination of lemon, anchovy and mint. It is a perfect summer dish.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

Total time: 25 to 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 zucchini, peeled and sliced diagonally

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves


1. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the onions and garlic until translucent, stirring often so the garlic doesn’t burn, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the anchovy and lemon juice and cook, stirring, until the anchovies melt, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, then cook until tender, stirring frequently to coat everything, 12 to 15 minutes. Toss with the mint and serve.

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