Culinary Arts

Chef Thomas Keller’s Oven-Roasted Zucchini Squash: Best Baked Zucchini Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 29, 2019 • 4 min read

Chef Thomas Keller loves to cook with a vegetable at the height of its season, and in this case, two summer vegetables—tomato and fresh zucchini—capture the summer in one dish.

Zucchini was first cultivated in Northern Italy in the nineteenth century and brought to the U.S. by Italian immigrants. Packed with Vitamin A (40% of your daily value) and low in calories, zucchini serves as a great accompaniment to just about any protein or standalone appetizers.

In this delicious (and vegan) side dish, Chef Keller roasts zucchini and accompanies the vegetable with an easy recipe for a tangy and savory vierge sauce. You'll know this dish is done when the zucchini are completely tender, rather than when your oven timer goes off.

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3 Tips for Perfectly Roasted Zucchini

  1. Use high heat. Zucchini is 94 percent water, which means that it can easily turn mushy if cooked improperly or too long. To keep your roasted zucchini crispy, use your broiler or crank up your oven heat to high and cook for a shorter time. As an alternative, toss zucchini in olive oil and try grilling over high heat for added texture and flavor.
  2. Draw out excess moisture. Another way to keep your roasted zucchini from falling apart during cooking is to remove some of the water trapped inside. To do this, cut your medium zucchini in half lengthwise and sprinkle liberally with salt. The salt will both flavor the zucchini and pull moisture to the surface. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove this moisture, along with extra salt. (Black pepper is not an enhancer of flavor in the way that salt is—it actually adds and changes flavor.)
  3. Choose the right squash for your recipe. Your cooking needs may change depending on the size, maturity, and types of zucchini you’re using. Talk to your local produce sellers or home gardeners about the differences between zucchini varieties, like Goldbar yellow squash or summer squash. Return to them as a resource for any vegetable you are cooking with, and for advice about seasonal substitutions appropriate for your local growing region.

How to Make Oven Roasted Zucchini: Step-by-Step Guide

Thomas Keller scoring a zucchini
Thomas Keller scoring zucchini flatlay

1. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and score the flesh in a crosshatch pattern so that the salt can penetrate it.

Thomas Keller salting zucchini

2. “Rain” or “snow” salt onto the scored side of the zucchini from a height that allows it to evenly distribute. Leave the zucchini for 10–15 minutes so that salt has time to draw out moisture, which will help maintain the density of the vegetable as it cooks.

Thomas Keller patting zucchini with paper towel

3. Pat the zucchini dry. Preheat oven to 450°F.

Zucchini on pan with oil

4. Heat canola oil (use just enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a 12-inch fry pan until it’s shimmering and just beginning to smoke. Place zucchini flesh side down in a single layer. Adjust the heat to sear and caramelize the zucchini without burning.

Zucchini on pan being flipped with tongs

5. Cook about 5 minutes, then add fresh herbs or garlic and immediately place the pan in a 450°F oven to roast for 25–30 minutes or until the zucchini are completely soft.

Thomas Keller transferring zucchini to paper towels from pan

6. Transfer zucchini to paper towel–lined plate to blot excess oil.

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Chef Thomas Keller’s Oven Roasted Zucchini Recipe

Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Cook Time
30 min

Ingredients

  • 3 zucchini, green and/or Goldbar
  • 6–8 ounces canola oil*
  • Vierge sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Finishing salt

*Chef Keller recommends that you use canola oil in this technique, as roasting requires high heat and canola has a high flash point and a neutral flavor.

Equipment

  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • 12-inch fry pan
  • Spatula
  • Paper towel–lined plate

For Vierge Sauce:

  • 125 grams tomato concasse
  • 15 grams champagne vinegar
  • 5 grams shallots, minced
  • 35 grams extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Pinch of parsley, minced

How to Make The Zucchini:

  1. Halve the zucchini lengthwise and score the flesh in a crosshatch pattern so that the salt can penetrate it.
  2. “Rain” or “snow” salt onto the scored side of the zucchini from a height that allows it to evenly distribute. Leave the zucchini for 10–15 minutes so that salt has time to draw out moisture, which will help maintain the density of the vegetable as it cooks. Pat the zucchini dry.
  3. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  4. Heat canola oil (use just enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a 12-inch fry pan until it’s shimmering and just beginning to smoke.
  5. Add the zucchini flesh side down in the oil, adjust the heat to allow the zucchini to sear and caramelize without burning.
  6. Cook about 5 minutes, then add herbs or garlic and immediately place the pan in a 450°F oven to roast for 25–30 minutes or until the zucchini are completely soft (make sure to use an oven-safe pan to avoid transferring the zucchini to a separate baking sheet).
  7. Transfer zucchini to paper towel–lined plate to blot excess oil.
  8. Arrange the zucchini on a serving platter. Then spoon the vierge sauce over the top.

How to Make Vierge Sauce:

  1. While the zucchini is roasting, gently combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, and allow the flavors to blend together. The vierge sauce may be prepared up to a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. If you refrigerate, allow the vierge to come to room temperature before serving so that the flavors unfold and the olive oil is not congealed.
  2. Arrange the zucchini on a serving platter. Then spoon the vierge sauce over the top, following by a sprinkling of finishing salt.

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