Written by Linda Sarris Photos by Luisa Misseri
Italian side dishes or “contorni” usually consist of sautéed seasonal greens, salads, or roasted vegetables that go along with the main course. Generally, the vegetables are served after a portion of pasta to help amp up a small serving of grilled or roasted fish or meat.
Fresh zucchini is in season during the summer and fall, but if they are grown in greenhouses, they’ll be available all year round and can be used in a variety of ways, whether you want to fry them, shred them into crisp salads, or roast in the oven. The small green zucchini we will use for this recipe are easy to find in any country, but here in Italy, they are known as “zucchine Genovese.”
Notes from the Chef:
When selecting produce in your market or grocery store, make sure to pick the straight, slim, and dark green zucchini instead of the oblong squash-shaped ones; since these will have more seeds and higher water content. Check that the zucchini is not bruised or scraped in any way. Since you do not need to peel them, make sure they are washed and dried properly before slicing for this recipe.
The grated cheese and breadcrumb mixture contributes to the flavor and texture combination of this dish. Pay attention to how much salt you need to add to the mixture since the grated cheese you use might be salty enough that you do not need to add any more. Taste a pinch of the breadcrumb mixture before breading the zucchini and adjust with salt and pepper if necessary.
6 small green zucchini, cut lengthwise in 1/4-inch slices
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/4 c. grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
fresh rosemary, picked from the stem and roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon
black pepper + sea salt to taste
Thinly slice the zucchini and toss in a big bowl with the extra virgin olive oil. In a separate bowl, prepare the breadcrumbs with the grated cheese, chopped rosemary, lemon zest, freshly cracked pepper, and sea salt sprinkle. Coat both sides of the zucchini slices with the breadcrumbs and press the mixture into each piece to form a nice crust. Line a sheet tray with baking paper and coat with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to prevent the zucchini from sticking to the pan. I prefer to use baking paper instead of aluminum foil since the foil tends to rip more easily when scooping the cooked vegetables off when they are finished.
Lay the breaded zucchini pieces close together on the baking sheet without overlapping. Bake the zucchini in a pre-heated oven at 180°C/350°F for about 10 minutes until the outside is well toasted to a golden brown color and the zucchini cooked all the way through. Serve right away to preserve their crisp texture.
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