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Zucchini Parmigiana with Ricotta ~ Zucchini Parmesan

Slice of zucchini parmigiana on white plate with stove and kitchen in background.
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Zucchini Parmigiana (aka, zucchini parmesan) is an Italian American summer favorite made when the zucchini is overflowing and abundant. Crispy zucchini cutlets are layered with tomato basil sauce, a trio of cheeses including ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino and fragrant basil pesto then baked until melty and delicious.

Slice of zucchini parmigiana on white plate with stove and kitchen in background.

Zucchini Parmigiana is the lesser known, early-summer cousin to eggplant parmesan, that’s generally made when everyone’s home garden zucchini harvest is in full force. It contains all the usual delicious parm suspects–hearty tomato sauce + cheeses + breaded main ingredient heated together to achieve maximum cheese pull and comfort.

Tender and delicate baked panko crusted zucchini is at the heart of this recipe with two somewhat unique ingredients–ricotta cheese for a creamy richness and basil pesto for a fresh, herby accent. When paired with rich tomato sauce, mozzarella and pecorino cheese, it’s a perfect example of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

I mean, the parts are pretty darn delicious and amazing on their own. But, once joined together, they are brought to a whole other level (just like these chicken parm and meatball parm recipes!

Let’s start a campaign to make zucchini parmesan all year long! It’s not just for summer anymore!

The finished baked zucchini parmigiana (parmesan) in baking dish with basil garnish and one slice cut out.

The Puzzle of “Parm”

Why is it called zucchini parm, parmesan or parmigiana when it’s typically made with mozzarella?

Well, while the popular Italian American cooking technique of parm/parmesan/parmigiana for sure has its roots in the (generally unbreaded and lighter) classic melanzane alla Parmigiana of Sicily and the southern Italian regions, the use of the word “parm” (which is more of a northern Italian term) is still not 100% understood. My theory is that this dish was originally always paired with a cow’s milk cheese (grated parmesan) as opposed to the more common pecorinos (sheep’s milk cheeses) of the southern regions.

Regardless, parms in general, and this zucchini parmigiana in particular, are one of the best things about Italian American cooking, in my humble opinion. And, I definitely believe more foods should be parm’d. Mangia bene!

Slice of parmigiana di zucchini held on spatula, showing the cut view.

Ingredients for Zucchini Parmigiana

⁠⁠⁠To make this zucchini parmigiana recipe, we’ll need:

  • Zucchini “Cutlets”: The heart of the recipe! Use my baked panko breaded zucchini recipe or your own. They can either be baked or fried. Making this zucchini parmesan is the best way to use up leftovers of baked zucchini!
  • Tomato Basil Sauce/Marinara: Use either homemade tomato sauce or store bought. Spicy arrabiata sauce is also a great option for all the picante lovers out there!
  • Ricotta Cheese: Ricotta cheese is not a common ingredient in parms, but I feel like it is one of the things that makes this recipe so special. It adds a creaminess and richness that you will love!
  • Mozzarella Cheese: It’s always best to start with block mozzarella and shred it yourself to avoid the anti-caking agents in pre-shredded cheeses. (Use a low-moisture mozzarella if possible.) Fresh mozzarella can be used here as well but be sure to drain as much liquid as possible from it first.
  • Grated Cheese: Either grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano (or any parmesan) cheese can be used (or a combo). Sheep’s milk pecorino will add sharpness while cow’s milk parmesan will add more earthiness.
  • Basil Pesto: While completely optional, pesto definitely adds a savory and freshness to the parm, rounding out its flavors. Plus, it seems that anytime you pair zucchini with basil, it’s a winning combination!

Ingredients for zucchini parmesan on cutting board.

How to Make Zucchini Parmigiana, Step-by-Step

Once you have all ingredients together, assembly of this zucchini parmesan casserole goes very quickly. Here are the steps:

  • Layer the following ingredients in the order listed over the entire surface of a baking dish (approximately 9” x 13”):
    • Tomato basil sauce (enough to lightly cover the bottom)
    • Zucchini (in a single layer)
    • More marinara sauce scattered over the zucchini
    • Ricotta and grated cheese scattered over surface
    • Small dollops of pesto scattered over the surface

  • Then, continue with additional layers of zucchini, sauce, cheeses and pesto scattered over the surface until the baking dish is full or until you have no more zucchini. Finish the top layer with cheese, sauce and pesto.
  • PRO-TIP: Try to divide the sauce, cheeses and pesto into equal amounts throughout the layers. Use as much or as little of each ingredient as you want. If you’d like more sauce or cheese–go for it!

  • Place the baking dish, uncovered, on the middle rack of a 375°F preheated oven. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
    • PRO-TIP: If you prefer a golden brown cheese topping, you can place it under the broiler for a minute or so (but don’t walk away as it can burn quickly!)

  • After baking, let the zucchini parmesan rest for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving and eating to allow it to settle and form up a bit. That’s it!
The finished baked zucchini parmigiana (parmesan) in baking dish with basil garnish.


Big piece of zucchini parmesan on plate with pesto garnish and wooden spoon in background.

Serving Suggestions for Zucchini Parmesan

I love to enjoy a large square of this parmigiana di zucchini with nothing more than some rustic bread, extra sauce and a glass of light, dry red wine. It’s pretty hearty and will completely satisfy any hunger.

The second best way to enjoy it is in a smaller portion with pasta and garlic bread! A simple spaghetti with garlic and olive oil or linguine with pesto are great companions, but so many other pastas with go great with zucchini parmigiana, like pasta arrabbiata in a spicy tomato sauce and pasta with broccoli.

You can also make a very unique zucchini parmesan sandwich! Scoop a heathy portion of it into a long roll (ideally, seeded) with extra sauce on the side to dip into. I’m a simple, carb-loving girl that believes a good parm sandwich of any kind is one of life’s best pleasures.

Whichever way I eat it, I almost always pair zucchini alla parmigiana with some sautéed broccoli rabe and have some spicy pepper oil nearby to drizzle on for a touch of picante.

Slice of zucchini parmesan (parmigiana) on white plate with extra sauce.

TOP TIPS FOR ZUCCHINI PARMIGIANA

  • Mozzarella: It’s always best to shred the mozzarella yourself to avoid the anti-caking agents that are added to pre-shredded cheeses. I always buy whole milk block mozzarella and then shred it myself on a box grater.
  • Pesto: While the pesto is completely optional, it definitely adds a little something-something to the finished dish. If you have some on hand, definitely include it. But, there’s no need to go out of your way to make or buy pesto just for this recipe.
  • Substitutionsand Variations:
    • Taleggio, fontina fresh or smoked mozzarella, scamorza and sharp provolone are all great alternative cheese options!
    • And spicy arrabbiata or vodka sauce make excellent sauce substitutions.
    • If you happen to have extra meatballs, sausage or chicken cutlets on hand and want to include some in the dish, that’s a great idea! Just chop them up into bite-sized pieces and scatter them throughout the layers of the zucchini parmesan.
    • Some versions of zucchini parmesan call for a white sauce in a “bianca” version. In it, a homemade béchamel sauce is substituted for the tomato sauce and flavored with chives or basil. Sounds delicious, but I have not yet tried this myself. I would eliminate the mozzarella and ricotta if using a white sauce and flavor the béchamel with parmesan cheese and maybe some fontina (as I did in my white lasagna recipe here.)
    • Have eggplant? Use this exact recipe to make a classic Italian-American eggplant parm, just substituting in eggplant cutlets for the baked zucchini slices.
  • Let It Rest:Like lasagna, let the zucchini parm rest for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving and eating to allow it to settle and firm up a bit.
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Zucchini Parmigiana also freezes really well, either before or after baking. Make sure it is sealed or covered well (airtight) and then you can hold it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge or place directly in the oven, covered, at 350°F until heated through.

More Great Recipes to Try

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Slice of zucchini parmigiana on white plate with stove and kitchen in background.

Zucchini Parmigiana with Ricotta

Michele
Zucchini Parmigiana is an Italian American summer favorite made when the zucchini is overflowing and abundant. Crispy zucchini cutlets are layered with tomato basil sauce, a trio of cheeses including ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino and fragrant basil pesto then baked until melty and delicious.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 10 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 4-5 cups tomato basil sauce + more for serving (either purchased or homemade)
  • 1 batch (1x recipe) panko crusted zucchini (can be baked or fried)
  • 8 ounces block mozzarella, diced or shredded (can use fresh mozzarella)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • About ¼ cup basil pesto, either homemade or purchased (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Prep and gather all ingredients according to specifications above. Make a batch of Baked Panko Crusted Zucchini if you don’t already have it on hand. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375℉. Secure a large baking dish. (The one I used was 11” x 9” x 2.5”; 9”x13” works too!)
    (Please see the section above in the blog post for Step-By-Step instructions with photos.)
  • Layer the following ingredients in the order listed over the entire surface of the baking dish:
    • Tomato basil sauce (enough to lightly cover the bottom)
    • Zucchini (in a single layer)
    • More tomato basil sauce scattered over the zucchini
    • Ricotta and grated cheese scattered over surface
    • Small dollops of pesto scattered over the surface (if including)
  • Then, continue with additional layers of zucchini, sauce, cheeses and pesto scattered over the surface until the baking dish is full or until you have no more zucchini. Finish the top layer with cheese, sauce and pesto.
  • Place the baking dish, uncovered, on the middle rack of a 375℉ preheated oven. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. If you prefer a charred cheese topping, you can place it under the broiler for a minute or so (but don’t walk away as it can burn quickly!)
  • After baking, let the zucchini parm rest for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving and eating to allow it to settle and firm up a bit. Serve with extra sauce and fresh basil leaves, if desired. Buon Appetito!

Notes

  • Use as much or as little of each ingredient as you want. The above amounts are a guideline.
  • Start with a thicker tomato sauce if you can as it will help to ensure that the final product does not get watery.
  • If you prefer to cook the zuchini parmesan in a pan on the stovetop, go for it! I suggest a large, nonstick pan. Use the same layering procedure as indicate above cook it, covered, over medium/medium-low heat until heated through.
  • Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Zucchini Parmigiana also freezes really well, either before or after baking. Make sure it is sealed or covered well (airtight) and then you can hold it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge or place directly in the oven, covered, at 350°F until heated through.
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
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1 thought on “Zucchini Parmigiana with Ricotta ~ Zucchini Parmesan

  1. 5 stars
    We all loved this recipe so much! The zucchini cutlets are divine! Thank you. Great detail too.

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