Should you decide (like me) that because the weather feels remarkably fall-like for July (was last week perfect or was last week perfect), that you want to go all in and just consume comfort food, might I suggest this dish. An excellent way to utilize that summer produce (notably zucchini which everyone is bored of by early August) in a way that feels remarkably rich and comforting.
While it is comforting, this is not particularly rich. It is not loaded with cheese (though there is some), its not filled with oil or eggs. It's a simple baked dish filled with layers of roasted zucchini and tomato sauce. I don't know how it happens to taste so decadent (but not in a I can only eat one bite kind of way) but it does! And it's awesome.
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes
The original recipe called for making fresh tomato sauce with farmers market tomatoes. Normally I'm into that thing but when I make fresh sauce, it's an all weekend affair involving 20 pounds of tomatoes and a lot of cursing. I wasn't going to do that for this dish. I used canned tomatoes and it was great. Though if you want to use fresh, by all means do so.
For the Sauce
1 28 oz can tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
Salt and pepper
⅛ teaspoon sugar
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 cup ricotta (optional)
For the Zucchini Parmesan
2 to 2¼ pounds zucchini
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (pepperoncini), to taste
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
To make tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add
garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and basil sprigs. Increase heat to medium-high. When tomatoes are bubbling briskly, stir and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to pan, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on consistency. Remove basil sprigs; taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in chopped basil and ricotta (if using).
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment. Trim ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then into lengthwise slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in one layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Roast for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.
To assemble the dish, oil a 2-quart gratin with olive oil. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce over bottom of dish. Arrange a third of the zucchini in an even layer over tomato sauce. Spoon a third of remaining sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Drizzle on remaining tablespoon olive oil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.