Zucchini Parmesan is quick to make and is a delicious main or side dish. Perfectly finished with cheesy goodness and the satisfying crunch of toasted breadcrumbs.
If you crave Chicken Parmesan, but wish there were a lighter, quicker and easier version of this iconic dish, then Zucchini Parmesan is for you. Slices of zucchini are topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and bread crumbs and then placed under the broiler until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs turn golden and crunchy. All the flavors of Chicken Parmesan in a fraction of the time – and it’s vegetarian!
Chicken Parmesan is a classic Italian-American dish. It is absolutely one of my favorite plates to order at my neighborhood red-sauce Italian restaurant. But making Chicken Parmesan at home can be quite a project. You have to bread and pan-fry the chicken and then layer it in a casserole with tomato sauce and grated cheese before baking it in the oven. That is a lot of steps!
If you can’t get enough of the combination of tomato sauce, melty cheese, and crunchy bread crumbs, there is an easier way. Give zucchini the parmesan treatment and create a vegetarian side dish or appetizer that is guaranteed to satisfy all your cravings!
For this version of zucchini parmesan, using the broiler on your oven is the key to success. The broiler is like an indoor, upside down version of a grill; it heats food from the top down rather than bottom up like on a grill.
Because the heat is only coming from the top when broiling, you want to make sure that your food is close – but not too close – to the heating element. For this recipe, adjust the racks inside your oven so that the top rack is approximately 8 inches from the heat. Do this step before turning on your oven, however!
The advantage of the broiler is that it cooks food quickly. You are really only heating the exterior of the food, so broiling is a perfect method of cooking for thin cuts of meat or sliced vegetables. In this case, the zucchini is sliced thin, so it softens and begins to brown after less than 10 minutes under the broiler.
Because the broiler heats food from above, it is especially effective at giving foods a toasted and crispy exterior. In this recipe, the broiler toasts the panko bread crumbs that we use to top the zucchini rounds, turning them golden brown and crunchy – which is just what we want!
Some people find it helpful to leave their oven door slightly ajar – not fully open, but just cracked – when using the broiler. Many ovens will be able to stay open just a few inches in this way. Cracking the oven door can help prevent the oven from overheating as well as allowing moisture to escape, which will increase the chances of getting a nice, crispy crust on your zucchini parmesan.
You may be wondering if it is necessary to use a broiling pan, like the one that came with your oven, when cooking food under the broiler. While the broiling pan can sometimes be useful, such as when cooking meat, in this recipe, it is not necessary. A baking pan or heavy-duty cookie sheet is perfect for cooking this zucchini parmesan. However, do make sure that the pan you use is thick and sturdy. A thin cookie sheet can warp under the heat of the broiler.
To make zucchini parmesan, first broil the slices of zucchini until they soften and begin to brown, which takes less than 10 minutes. At that point, the slices are ready to be topped with the classic combination of tomato sauce, grated mozzarella cheese – for maximum meltiness – and crunchy bread crumbs. Then pop the zucchini slices back under the broiler until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs crisp up, another 3 or 4 minutes. That’s it! The whole dish is ready in under 15 minutes.
Zucchini Parmesan makes a perfect side dish for all your Italian-inspired meals. It can also be a nice vegetarian main course when served over pasta or rice. Looking for an unusual vegetarian appetizer for your next party? Place toothpicks in the zucchini slices and serve them as a fun hors d’oeuvre. People will snap them up!Print
- 3 medium zucchini sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
- Cooking spray, such as Pam
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1 cup tomato sauce, homemade or store-bought
- 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
- Arrange the oven racks so that a baking pan placed on the top rack will sit 8 inches from the heating element. Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes.
- Spray a large, heavy baking pan or cookie sheet with the cooking spray. Arrange the zucchini rounds on the pan in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.
- Broil the zucchini until slightly softened and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Remove the zucchini from the oven and top each round with approximately 1 tablespoon of the tomato sauce, a pinch of cheese, and sprinkle of the bread crumbs. Spray the bread crumbs with cooking spray.
- Return the zucchini to the broiler and broil until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm.