This Zucchini Parmesan recipe is the definition of low effort high reward. Simply slice zucchini, layer with store-bought or homemade pasta sauce and grated cheese. Throw everything in your oven until it’s melted and bubbling. Healthy, low carb comfort food? I'm in!
This zucchini parmesan recipe captures the special kind of comfort that only baked tomato sauce and cheese can bring. What sets this recipe apart is its lighter take on the traditional Italian casserole. You get the warmth and coziness without all the heaviness.
Similar to my Eggplant Parmesan, I skip the breading and frying and instead opt for a gluten-free, low carb version of the classic. Don’t worry, though, I kept all the cheesy goodness!
Though it’s similar to eggplant casseroles like Greek Moussaka or Eggplant Lasagna, zucchini really has its own story to tell. When it's roasted, it stays super light but becomes sweet and slightly caramelized with a tender, velvety texture. The baked zucchini acts as a beautiful messenger for the salty, creamy, and umami-rich combination of mozzarella and parmesan. And, it soaks up and plays with the delicate flavors of a simple tomato sauce.
Serve this simple dish on a weeknight to show some extra care to yourself or loved ones. If you’d like to go the extra mile, throw together a crunchy salad, like Lemon Parmesan or Red Cabbage, while it bakes.
Table of Contents
Zucchini Parmesan Ingredients
Zucchini parmesan is made from just 5 primary ingredients. It also uses mainly pantry staples, so you may find yourself checking off most of this list without grabbing your shopping bag! If not, everything can be easily found at just about any grocery store.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Used to prevent sticking, any olive oil you have on hand will work. I use our Italian Nocellara because it’s flavorful and complex without overpowering.
- Zucchini: Look for firm zucchini that are small to medium in size. Larger zucchini tend to be tougher and less flavorful.
- Salt and pepper: Crucial for enhancing the flavors of this dish.
- Red pasta sauce: I love to make a big batch of simple homemade spaghetti sauce to use all week. If you’re short on time, your favorite store-bought tomato-based pasta sauce will work well.
- Mozzarella: Grab a low-moisture mozzarella if it’s available to you. It tends to melt and turn golden without getting watery.
- Parmesan: Adds a depth of flavor to the mild and milky mozzarella. Grab the big blocks of Parmesan if you can–the pre-grated stuff tends to be less flavorful.
- Basil: Used as a garnish, basil adds a peppery, fresh, and herbaceous flavor to the baked zucchini casserole.
How to Make Zucchini Parmesan
With less than five minutes of active time, this zucchini parmesan recipe is perfect for nights when you have other tasks to accomplish. By tasks, I could mean throwing it in your oven and folding laundry or cleaning your house. But I could also mean catching up on TV with a glass of wine! To make this easy recipe:
- Set up your oven. Set up your oven with one rack in the middle and one rack in the top third. Preheat to 400°F. Brush a large sheet pan and a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
- Prep your ingredients. Get your homemade or store-bought spaghetti sauce ready. Trim and slice 6 to 7 medium zucchini into ¼-inch thick slabs. Tear or slice 6-8 ounces of mozzarella cheese into bite-sized pieces. Grate enough parmesan cheese to yield ¾ cup.
Make the Zucchini Parmesan
- Roast the zucchini. Arrange the zucchini in the sheet pan in one layer (they can touch but should not overlap). Season with a large pinch of kosher salt and black pepper, then brush with olive oil.
- Bake the zucchini. Bake until the zucchini are soft and somewhat pliable, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven (keep the oven on) and lightly pat the zucchini with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
- Assemble. Spread about ½ cup of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Lay a few zucchini slabs in one single layer to cover the sauce. Top with about a third of the mozzarella and ¼ cup of the grated parmesan. Repeat two more times in the same pattern, ending with the last of the zucchini on top.
- Bake then broil. Place the baking dish on the center rack of the heated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the zucchini is tender and the cheese has fully melted, about 20 minutes. For a little more color, transfer the baking dish to the top third of your oven. Turn your oven to broil and keep an eye on things. Remove from the oven when the top layer is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Rest. Remove the zucchini parmesan from the oven and allow the casserole to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Serve: Slice the zucchini parmesan into 12 squares. Garnish with torn basil and serve.
What to Serve with Zucchini Parmesan
Zucchini parmesan, with its melted cheese and home-style tomato sauce, brings all the comfort you need by itself. Simply serve yourself an extra square if you’re extra hungry and you have yourself a full meal!
If you want something to round things out, serve with a low-maintenance fresh salad that can be thrown together while the zucchini parmesan rests. Lemon Parmesan Lettuce Salad or Red Cabbage Salad have just the right amount of crunch to balance the velvety baked zucchini.
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Extra Virgin Olive Oil from hand-picked, cold-extracted Nocellara olives.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 6 to 7 medium zucchini (about 2 ½ pounds) trimmed and cut into ¼-inch thick slabs
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 1 ½ cups red pasta sauce, homemade or your favorite store-bought
- 6 to 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or sliced
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Handful basil leaves, torn, for garnish
- Get ready. Position one rack in the middle and one rack in the top third of your oven. Preheat to 400°F. Brush a large sheet pan and a 9 x13-inch baking dish with a little olive oil.
- Roast the zucchini. Arrange the zucchini in the sheet pan in one layer (they can touch but should not overlap). Season the top of the zucchini slabs with kosher salt and black pepper, then brush with olive oil.
- Bake. Place on the middle rack until the zucchini are soft and somewhat pliable (they do not need to be fully cooked through), about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven but keep the oven on. Carefully and lightly pat the zucchini with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
- Assemble the zucchini parmesan casserole. Spread about ½ cup of the sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Lay a few zucchini slabs in one single layer to cover the sauce. Top with about a third of the mozzarella and ¼ cup of the grated parmesan. Repeat two more times in the same pattern, ending with the last of the zucchini on top.
- Bake then broil. Place the baking dish on the center rack of the heated oven and bake until the zucchini is tender and the cheese has fully melted, about 20 minutes. For a little more color, transfer the baking dish to the top rack. Turn your oven to broil and keep an eye on things. Remove from the oven when the top layer is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Rest. Remove the zucchini parmesan from the oven and allow the casserole to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Serve: When the cheese and liquids have settled, cut the zucchini parmesan into 12 squares. Garnish with the torn basil and serve.
- Avoid the temptation to slice right into the casserole. It needs a few minutes to rest and cool, or it will become a bit of a melty mess.
- A low-moisture mozzarella is preferred for this recipe. It tends to melt and turn golden-brown better than water-packed mozzarella.
- Always keep a close eye when you’re broiling! The cheese will go from golden brown to smoking quickly.
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