Any dish described as Parmigiana or alla Parmigiana brings music to everyone’s ears. Those layers of eggplant, veal or chicken held together with melted cheese and tasty tomato sauce; almost a savory layer cake to be sliced into squares and served. But it’s summer, is that how you really want to spend your time in the kitchen – never mind the dreaded frying. Summer Zucchini Parmigiana is a fresh seasonal approach to an old classic which delivers bright flavors reminiscent of the parmigiana dishes of your childhood.
Grilled zucchini and freshly sliced garden tomatoes are the cornerstones of this parmigiana. Grated lemon zest and whole basil leaves brighten the vegetables bringing a different level of delicate complexity to the dish. The traditional heavy breading is replaced by crunchy toasted breadcrumbs which add wonderful texture.
Summer Zucchini Parmigiano can be put together rather quickly once the zucchini has been grilled. You can prepare it in a rectangular baking dish or in a more deconstructed fashion on oven proof plates to be served individually.
Each bite of Summer Zucchini Parmigiana delivers a true sense of summer, evoking memories of sun filled days at the seaside. A definite departure on a dish that many of us grew up with, minus the guilt. Isn’t that perfect?
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- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 4 medium sized zucchini, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into ¼ inch strips
- 4 garden tomatoes, firm but ripe, thinly sliced
- The leaves from a bunch of fresh basil, washed & dried
- ½ pound of low moisture mozzarella, sliced into discs then torn into strips.
- 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano
- Peel of one medium sized lemon
- 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
- Olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Layer the sliced zucchini in a colander either over a bowl or in the sink, salting each of the layers with Kosher salt. Once you have layered all of the zucchini, place a clean cotton dish towel over the zucchini along with a heavy can or jar for 30 minutes. This will remove the excess water from the zucchini.
- Line a plate with paper toweling and lay the tomato slices over the toweling. The paper toweling with absorb excess water from the tomatoes so the finished dish is not too liquid or runny.
- Select a 9 X 11 inch baking dish, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the dish and rub the sides and bottom of the oiled baking dish with the crushed clove of garlic. Remove and reserve the garlic, set the prepared baking dish aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a fry pan, add the crushed clove of garlic and turn the heat to medium. Once the oil is hot, add the fresh breadcrumbs and stir well. Lightly toast the breadcrumbs stirring frequently to be sure that they do not burn. Once the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted, remove the pan from the heat, discard the garlic and season the toasted breadcrumbs with salt.
- After 30 minutes of draining, rinse the zucchini with cool water and lay on a cotton towel to dry. Preheat your grill to medium high. Lightly brush the zucchini strips with olive oil and begin to grill until the zucchini is scored on each side.
- Preheat the oven to 350º.
- Begin to build the Summer Zucchini Parmigiana by first layering the bottom of the baking dish with grilled zucchini slices, arranging them next to each other but not overlapping. Scatter some of the toasted breadcrumbs and grated lemon peel over the zucchini. Next cover the grilled zucchini with a layer of the drained tomato slices, a sprinkling of salt and some Parmigiano. Lay strips of the mozzarella over the seasoned tomatoes and liberally cover the cheese with whole basil leaves. Repeat this process until you have used all of the ingredients. Top the Summer Zucchini Parmigiana with a generous amount of toasted breadcrumbs and Parmigiano.
- Place into the preheated oven and bake until the cheese is melted and the contents are bubbling - about 20 minutes. Allow the Summer Zucchini Parmigiana to set for 10 minutes before serving. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil over each serving if desired. This dish is also wonderful at room temperature.