Side/ Vegetarian

Easy Zucchini Gratin

September 2, 2019
zucchini gratin with green napkin, and roasted potatoes and chicken on plates in background

Have you reached the point in the summer where neighbors will no longer take free zucchinis from your garden, and you’ve made every recipe you can think of with zucchini? I hear you. But stay with me for one more zucchini recipe that might change your mind—this Zucchini Gratin. Now normally, I’m not much of a zucchini gratin person. Too often they are either filled with thick watery zucchini slices or dripping in a heavy cream sauce. I enjoy neither. But I was flipping through the one French cookbook left in the apartment that we are renting just outside of Paris, and I found a recipe for “Gratin de Courgettes” that called for grated zucchini. 

Grated zucchini! Why had I never thought of this as an option? I’ve made zucchini fritters using grated zucchini, drained and pressed so as to not create soggy pancakes. Why not use the same technique for a gratin? Try it. I think you’ll find this soon becomes your favorite way to make Zucchini Gratin. Also, my recipe calls for just 6 ingredients and comes together in minutes—no cooking down flour and milk to make a cream sauce. I toyed with adding caramelized onions to this recipe (would be delicious for sure), but decided that the simplicity of this recipe makes it that much more appealing on a busy day. Really, if you use a food processor to grate your zucchini and you opt for pregrated cheese, you can have this in the oven in under 10 minutes. When it comes out, you have a crunchy, cheesy side dish sure to please everyone, even the zucchini-weary.  

How do you make zucchini gratin?

First, make sure you pick your zucchini wisely. Always choose small or medium-sized zucchini because zucchini can grow quite large, but the larger sizes can be tough and fibrous to eat.

When you’re ready to get started, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry your zucchini and cut off the very bottom. Then, holding the top stem securely, grate the zucchini over the large holes of a box grater. You can also grate the zucchini using the grater attachment of your food processor to save time. You can even zoodle it instead of grating if you prefer! Toss grated zucchini with 1/2 t. salt and let drain in a colander over a medium bowl for 20 minutes.

shredded zucchini draining in red colander over bowl

While zucchini is draining, melt 1 T. of butter in a medium nonstick skillet. Add 1/3 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 t. pimente d’espelette and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes, until breadcrumbs begin to toast, and become fragrant with butter and spice. Turn off the heat and leave breadcrumbs to cool.

bowls of ingredients for zucchini gratin: shredded zucchini, cheese, and seasoned breadcrumbs

When 20 minutes is up, squeeze out liquid by pressing down on the zucchini with a clean tea towel or thick paper towel. You should have about 1/3-1/2 cup liquid in the bowl. Discard the liquid and dump the zucchini into the bowl. Add the shredded cheese and stir. Pour into a 9-inch shallow baking dish and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with the seasoned breadcrumbs.

zucchini gratin ready for oven

Cook for 30 min, until top is browned and cheese is bubbly. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes on a cooling rack. 

baked zucchini gratin on cutting board with green napkin and pie server

Notes on ingredients:

To keep this recipe simple (and prevent you from spending an hour with your cheese grater), I’ve used pre-grated cheese. It is always better to grate your cheese starting from a block, because it’s fresher, but every now and then, make it easy on yourself and buy your cheese pre-grated. In Paris, fromage râpés (grated cheese) is usually tomme or emmental cheese, which are less common in the U.S., so I’ve called for monterey jack and mozzarella. You could also use fontina or gruyere, though it is harder to find them pre-grated. Also, if you can’t find pimente d’espelette, smoked paprika makes a great substitute.

Why do you need to drain zucchini?

Zucchini is a very watery vegetable. Cooking zucchini will cause the water inside the zucchini to come out, which can leave you with a watery mess. Draining zucchini before you use it, whether you are grilling zucchini planks or sautéing cubes or making this zucchini gratin, will nearly always result in a better dish because reducing the water content allows the zucchini to brown instead of steam, adding flavor. 

Can you freeze zucchini gratin?

Yes, you can. Either freeze it after you have assembled it and before baking it (cover dish with plastic wrap and then tin foil for best results), or you can freeze leftovers. If you freeze it pre-baked, defrost in the refrigerator before baking. Expect to add 5-10 minutes to your cooking time, since it will go in the oven colder than if you had just assembled it. 

What should I serve with zucchini gratin?

This gratin goes with all sorts of foods, but I love it next to a roast chicken (buy a rotisserie one to make dinner easy!) or baked salmon or tilapia fillets. It’s perfect with my Foil Pack Tilapia recipe or as an accompaniment to my Chicken Parmesan Meatballs. Also, since zucchini is a summer vegetable, it’s a great complement to grilled meats or seafood. For a vegetarian option, a big scoop of this gratin topped with a fried runny egg is perfection. 

Can you make zucchini gratin gluten-free?

Absolutely! Just leave off the breadcrumbs, and this dish is entirely gluten-free. You can still sprinkle pimente d’espelette on top of the zucchini and cheese before baking for a little pop of spice and color. 

What are the health benefits of zucchini?

Zucchini is high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins B and C, folate, and potassium. Zucchini is also a low calorie food with zero fat. Though cheese and breadcrumbs are added to this gratin recipe, this is still a healthier alternative to a potato gratin, for example, which is much higher in calories and often swimming in cream. 

If you are looking for other great side dish recipes, be sure to try my Tomato Salad, Asian Cabbage Slaw, or Black Bean and Corn Salad.

Easy Zucchini Gratin

Easy Zucchini Gratin

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This easy zucchini gratin has just 6 ingredients: shredded zucchini tossed with cheese and topped with buttery breadcrumbs. Comes together in minutes!

Ingredients

  • 3 medium zucchini (about 1.5 lbs/650g zucchini)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 t. pimente d’espelette
  • 1 cup finely grated monterey jack cheese (90 g)
  • 1 cup finely grated mozzarella cheese (90 g)

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Rinse and dry the zucchini, and cut off the very bottom. Holding the top stem securely, grate the zucchini over the large holes of a box grater.
    3. Toss grated zucchini with 1/2 t. salt and let drain in a colander over a medium bowl for 20 minutes.
    4. While zucchini is draining, melt 1 T. of butter in a medium nonstick skillet.
    5. Add 1/3 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 t. pimente d’espelette and stir.
    6. Cook for about 3 minutes, until breadcrumbs begin to toast, and become fragrant with butter and spice. Turn off the heat and leave breadcrumbs to cool.
    7. When 20 minutes is up, squeeze out liquid by pressing down on the zucchini with a clean tea towel or thick paper towel. You should have about 1/3-1/2 cup liquid in the bowl.
    8. Discard the liquid and dump the zucchini into the bowl. Add the shredded cheese and stir.
    9. Pour into a 9-inch shallow baking dish and spread out evenly.
    10. Sprinkle with the seasoned breadcrumbs.
    11. Cook for 30 min, until top is browned and cheese is bubbly.
    12. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.

Notes

You can also grate the zucchini using the grater attachment to your food processor to save time. If you don’t have pimente d’espelette, you can replace with smoked paprika.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 283 Total Fat: 19g Saturated Fat: 12g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 7g Cholesterol: 57mg Sodium: 720mg Carbohydrates: 12g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 4g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 17g
Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.

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