Zucchini with ricotta, mint, and basil takes slices of zukes and tosses them in a skillet until tender. The magic happens when they’re left to meld with ricotta, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice until perfect.
This may sound like a simple and not very exciting combination, but I practically live on it in the summer when my small patch of zucchini produces more vegetables than I can cope with. It’s also well-behaved—you can make it earlier in the day to eat in the evening.–Diana Henry
☞ Table of Contents
Zucchini with Ricotta, Mint, and Basil
- 6 medium zucchini
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 ounces ricotta salata* cheese fresh if possible, broken into chunks
- 1/2 cup pecorino cheese shavings
- 1 small bunch basil leaves leaves only
- 1 small bunch mint leaves leaves only
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Have everything ready and on hand because you will layer the dish as you cook it.
- Cut the zucchini into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and cook the zucchini, in batches, until golden on each side and tender throughout. Season the zucchini with salt and pepper. Arrange the zucchini in a broad, shallow serving bowl and cook the next batch, adding more olive oil to the pan as needed.
- When you have a layer of zucchini in the bowl, layer some ricotta, pecorino, and herbs on top, then add a good squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Continue like this until you've layered all the zucchini and finish with some herbs and shavings of pecorino and drizzle with a bit of extra- virgin olive oil. Serve while still warm or at room temperature.
*What is ricotta salata?Unlike the creamy version of ricotta, this one is pressed and salted until it becomes quite crumbly. Part of the pecorino family, ricotta salata is made from sheep’s milk and has a creamy texture with a mild, nutty taste. A bit like feta, but not as tangy or salty. It is, however, still salty enough (as is pecorino) so you might want to keep that in mind when seasoning the dish.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Okay, I could tell by reading this recipe that it’d be good. But I didn’t expect it to be great. In fact, it was so delicious we’re having it for dinner again tonight. Frying coins of zucchini, layering them with fresh ricotta salata, pecorino shavings, fresh mint, and basil, and then drizzling them with lemon juice and olive oil was such an eye-opener for me. This is officially at the top of my favorite-ways-to-use-zucchini list (and my list is lengthy).
The cheeses melted into ooey-gooey goodness, and the oil, lemon juice, and herbs? Oh my. We had the fortune of obtaining fresh ricotta and pecorino from our local cheesemaker and both were so lovely here. Just imagine the flavors. Perhaps you think that those incredible ingredients would be a waste on ho-hum zucchini. Heck no. It’s not very often that dishes surprise me this much. This recipe really takes humble zucchini and elevates it to wow.
When thinking about ways to improve it, I thought perhaps adding toasted pine nuts or capers would make it even more perfect but decided that it’s just great as is. It’s one of those recipes I had to call my mom about!
This is a perfect summer side-dish or room-temperature salad. We served as a salad, letting the flavors meld for a couple of hours at room temperature. Setting up the ingredients beforehand makes layering the cooked zucchini simple. The total time to prepare this dish was just under an hour.
We used a wide shallow frying pan to cook the zucchini coins, about 6 minutes on each side so that the outside was nicely browned and the inside of each slice was creamy. Cooking the rounds proved trickier than expected–it took trying a few different techniques before we figured out how best to turn each slippery piece of zucchini. Finally, we used the tip of a paring knife to spear each round, then used the edge of the pan to help flip it over. Next time, we’ll slice the zucchini length-wise into 1/4″-thick strips, so we can fry and turn the strips with tongs.
After cooking and layering all but one layer, we gave the dish a gentle folding over to make sure the lemon juice was well-distributed, then topped with the last layer so it was very pretty to serve.
This recipe was surprisingly tasty! I say surprisingly because of my long-standing love/hate relationship with zucchini. The flavors of the cheeses and herbs are the perfect complement to the blandness that zucchini is known for. The dish requires minimal skill, and the ingredients are all easy to come by perhaps with the exception of the ricotta salata, which required a trip to the cheese store.
The final product looked very much like the photograph accompanying the recipe and was beautiful when served. I did cut back on the added salt since both kinds of cheese are plenty salty. My only gripe with this recipe is that the zucchini has to be cooked in stages in order to fit in the pan. Next time I might try doing the zucchini on a sheet pan in the oven in order for them to all be finished at the same time.
Such a unique vegetable ‘casserole’, and a refreshing new way to use up abundant stashes of late-summer zucchini. I love the interplay of contrasting textures and bold flavors between the sautéed squash, the piquant cheeses, and the zesty, herbal punch of mint and basil leaves.
Other than babysitting the pan while cooking the two batches of zucchini to a true golden brown, there’s little that needs to be prepped to pull off this recipe in short order. My one caution would be with regards to the fresh ricotta salata. Besides being difficult to find in most of my regular grocery stores, it was also a bit overwhelming in the final dish, like a diva taking up too much of the spotlight. I think the measurement called for in the recipe (12 ounces) could easily be pulled back to 8 ounces so that the ricotta wouldn’t overplay its hand when layered with the vegetables.
With that adjustment and a cautious eye towards salting (since both kinds of cheese are quite salty), I’d easily bump this recipe up to a ‘9’ and would definitely be making it again.
We love zucchini in our family so with some adjustments I think this recipe would be a keeper. In the future, I’d grill instead of fry the zucchini rounds, let them come to room temp, and then layer in all the additional ingredients using more salt, more lemon, more oil, and less cheese. I think zucchini is one of those vegetables that is truly more delicious at room temp once it has the chance to absorb the flavors of acid and fat. Flaky Maldon salt was great in this dish.
The recipe indicates the use of a shallow bowl, but a platter is really a better vehicle for serving this. On a platter instead of a shallow bowl the zucchini layer on the bottom doesn’t end up swimming in all the juices and getting overcooked. I realize this is a nit-picky detail, but for someone who doesn’t really cook this could impact the finished dish.
I gave this a 7 rating because the recipe isn’t perfect as written, even though the flavors are great. I found the proportions to be off starting with the “medium” zucchini. My farmers market had 3 sizes of zucchini and I bought the middle size, which was between 8 and 9 inches long and weighed about 252g (9 oz) each. That meant there were A LOT of zucchini slices, way more than 2 tablespoons of oil could accommodate. I used 2 tablespoons per batch of zucchini. Additionally, 12 oz of ricotta salata was WAY too much, especially along with the pecorino. I could only bring myself to get a little over 7.5 oz on the platter, and that was even pushing it. But flavor-wise, there was still plenty of cheese to go around with the amount I did use.
Originally published August 23, 2021