Zucchini Gratinato

This Sept. 15, 2018 photo shows Zucchini Gratinato from a recipe by Elizabeth Karmel, in Amagansett, N.Y. This simple Italian dish, of thinly sliced zucchini, tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella, is savory and just rich enough to be crave-able but light enough that you feel like you are eating a dish straight from the garden. (Elizabeth Karmel via AP)

Servings: 9

Start to finish: 2 hours

Special equipment: Mandoline or V-slicer

3-4 large zucchini_you will fill a regular size colander with thin slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup unseasoned crushed tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning

1/2teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/8teaspoon ground black pepper

3/4ounce fresh basil or one large sprig

1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, about 1 pound

2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Clean and trim zucchini_you can use a combination of yellow squash and zucchini if you like.

Using a mandoline or a v-slicer, slice all the zucchini into thin rounds. Sprinkle with kosher salt as you fill a colander with the slices. Let sit for 30 minutes. Some liquid will drain out of the colander so place in a clean sink or put a dishtowel under the colander.

After 30 minutes, run cold water over the salted zucchini slices for several minutes and toss the zucchini with your hands to make sure all layers are rinsed. Wrap the rinsed zucchini in clean kitchen towels to dry and drain. You want the zucchini to be as dry as possible. I divide mine into two different towels to dry.

Meanwhile, mix crushed tomatoes with the tomato paste, herbs, salt and pepper. This will be your tomato sauce for the layers. Reserve one cluster of leaves for garnish and cut the rest of the fresh basil leaves into chiffonade or tear into pieces and set aside. Slice the fresh mozzarella into slices and squeeze between paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Tear into pieces.

Preheat the oven to 400 F and assemble the dish.

Begin the laying process by coating the bottom of a 9-by-9-inch baking dish with olive oil. Lay down the squash in an even layer about 3 deep and make sure the layer is even. Spoon one-third of the tomato sauce on the squash and spread evenly. Scatter the basil, a third of the mozzarella and a third of the parmesan cheese over the squash. Repeat with the remaining squash dividing it between 2 layers. The top of the zucchini gratin should be the tomato sauce, basil and cheese.

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 15 minutes covered at 400 F.

Remove the foil and reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Continue baking for another 45 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is brown. Let sit for 10 minutes and garnish with the reserved basil leaf. Cut into squares like you are cutting lasagna.

It’s just as good made ahead! Make as directed and re-heat in a 325 F oven covered for 45 minutes the day you want to serve it. When I re-heat the dish, I pour out any excess liquid that has collected in the pan before placing it in the oven.

Nutrition information per serving: 182 calories; 107 calories from fat; 12 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 32 mg cholesterol; 393 mg sodium; 8 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 11 g protein.

Elizabeth Karmel, Associated Press