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Whether you know it as zucchini or courgette, the green vegetable is a common sight on our supermarket shelves.  It is classed as a summer squash and is related to other squashes and pumpkins.  Here are 7 things to do with zucchini to help you find a place for it in your diet.

What is zucchini?

Zucchini can be dark or light green in colour although there are related hybrid species that can be yellow or even orange.  Like all its cousins, it originated in the Americas.  Both of its names relate to its family – zucchini comes from zucca which means gourd, marrow or squash in Italian while courgette comes from courge which also means gourd or marrow in French.  Confusingly, here in the UK and Ireland, a mature courgette is also called a marrow.

Regardless of what you call it, the zucchini is popular around the world.  Top producers of the vegetable include Japan, China, Romania, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and Argentina.  It is an all-year round crop.

Zucchini health benefits

There’s good reasons why people want to look for those top things to do with zucchini – because it does bring some solid health benefits.

Top of the list is that it can help with weight loss.  Zucchini is low in calories but good at making you feel full so that helps keep away from those between-meal snacks.  It also has a lot of water and fibre to help with digestion.

Other good stuff in the zucchini includes manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, magnesium, folate, potassium, copper and phosphorus.  It is a good boost for omega 3 fatty acids and protein.  In fact, it is one of the best vegetables in terms of the array of nutrients that it gives you.  This makes it very good at boosting overall health and contains ingredients that have anti-inflammatory properties to help with conditions likes arthritis.

Finally, research shows that the levels of manganese and Vitamin C in the veggie means it can help to build up the cardiovascular system and keep away from heart disease.  The fibre level can help lower cholesterol as well.

Top things to do with zucchini

Zucchini tend to be picked at around 8 inches or less.  Once they get bigger, they become more fibrous and a little less tasty.  If you spot one with a flower attached, grab it as these are said to be the best flavour.  The vegetable is 95% water, so you need to prepare for this when cooking.

Sautéed Zucchini

If you sauté or pan cook zucchini, you can quickly have the vegetable ready to serve and don’t lose any of the flavour.  You can slice it thinly and leave the skin on which adds to the nutrients.

Simply wash the zucchini under cold water and dry with paper towel.  Cut off the stem and cut into cubes, slices or strips.  Pop some butter, olive oil or even peanut oil into the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes until the slices are a little translucent but not limp.

Zucchini Panini

This recipe was called a courgette panini, but I just loved the rhyme of a zucchini panini.  That’s just me.  Anyway, the idea here is to use a baguette or even a proper panini and butter it.  Cut thin slices of zucchini the width of the bread.  Add thinly sliced Swiss cheese and the zucchini slices.  You then grill it open to warm up the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

Ham and Zucchini Pie

You can use a packaged dough for this recipe or make your own if you are brave enough.

Ingredients:

  • 1 8oz package refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise and quartered
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup cubed cooked ham
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

Place the 8 dough triangles in a 9 inch pie plate with the thin ends towards the centre.  Press the edges together to create a crust along the bottom and sides.  Bake this for about 6 minutes in high until lightly brown.

In a skillet or frying pan, melt the butter and adds the zucchini, onion and seasonings.  Cook until tender them pour over the crust and add the cheese and ham.  Whisk the eggs and pour over the mix then top with tomato slices.  Cook for 20-25 minutes on high until everything is cooked – a skewer inserted should come out clean.  Stand for 5 minutes and serve.

Zucchini Bake

This is another simple but tasty way to serve zucchini.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb zucchini sliced at an angle around ¼ inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch paprika

For the topping

  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • 8 sprigs of thyme, stalks removed
  • 1tbsp olive oil

Put a little oil on the bottom of an 8 inch square dish and arrange the zucchini so it overlaps.  Sprinkle with the seasonings.

In a bowl mix the breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs with a little salt and pepper.  Add the oil and stir until there is a slight yellow tint.  Sprinkle this over the top of the vegetables.  Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Pasta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

This is a pasta and zucchini dish that serves four so if there is just the two of you, cut everything in half.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces of linguine pasta
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 pound of zucchini
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 5 ounces of fresh goat cheese
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon zest

Wash the zucchini and cut into small half moon slices.  Crumble the goats cheese and set to one side.  Cook the pasta as directed, drain and keep one cup of water.

Heat the oil in a skillet or frying pan and add the zucchini with salt and pepper then cook for about five minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Keep all but two tablespoons of the cheese into the pasta and stir with the reserved water.  Add a little seasoning to pasta.  Serve the pasta topped with the zucchini, lemon zest and the rest of the cheese with some fresh bread.

Creamy Cheesy Zucchini Soup

As a soupmaker fan, I instantly think about converting a recipe for my favourite gadget.  But here’s the basic recipe to start with.  This makes 10 servings so again half if you don’t want as much.

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs zucchini trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 red bell papers, chopped
  • 1 ½ large red onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro (coriander)
  • 3 cups double cream
  • 1 lb shredded Swiss cheese
  • Salt and pepper

In a large stockpot pan, add a few inches of water and simmer the zucchini until tender.  Transfer the zucchini to a blender leaving the water in the pot.  Blend the zucchini until smooth then add the peppers, onions and herbs to the blender.  Blend again and then add the mix back into the pan.  Add the cheese and cream and season.  Cook on a low heat until everything is mixed and warm.

Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

Arrabbiata sauce is a traditional pasta sauce and this recipe just replaces the pasta with zucchini noodles.  You can buy store bought versions of the sauce, but it is pretty simple to make yourself.  This recipe serves four.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large firm zucchini, peeled
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Arrabbiata Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ c. tomato paste
  • 2 c. fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeds removed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish (optional):

  • fresh basil, washed, dried and cut into thin slices
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Heat some oil in a skillet or frying pan and add the red pepper flakes.  Heat until fragrant then add the tomatoes and pasta, oregano and garlic with a little salt and pepper.  Simmer for around 20 minutes until reduced.

Slice the zucchini into long noodles with a spiral slicer.  Cut them into lengths around 10 inches long and set to one side on some kitchen towel.

Heat oil and garlic in a skillet or frying pan on high until the garlic browns.  Reduce the heat and remove the garlic.  Add the noodles and sauté for 2 minutes.  Use tongs to turn them to make sure they are cooked.  Season and remove from the heat.  Toss the noodles in the sauce, add to a serving dish and season with basil and Parmesan.

Do you have a favourite way to eat zucchini (or courgette) – I’d love to hear about it below!