This fantastic zucchini recipe uses Chef Thomas Keller's method for making a positively mouthwatering vegetable dish. The cross-hatch method of pan-roasting zucchini went viral on TikTok, and for good reason – you’ll want to make this recipe again and again.
To make this recipe easier I've replaced the tomato vierge sauce with a quick and easy tomato sauce.
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Zucchini is an incredibly versatile vegetable that can work in many applications, from zucchini boats to delicious savory zucchini bread. But it can get dull. This is why I am always looking for new ways to cook this delightful veggie.
But a recipe like Thomas Keller’s zucchini really highlights the texture and flavor of the zucchini itself and is truly a treat!
If you have ever grown zucchini in your garden, you know how quickly you can end up with a near overabundance of it, and this is a great way to enjoy the best that the summer harvest has to offer. Chef Keller, of French Laundry fame, can't be wrong!
📖Why This Recipe Works
This simple recipe roasts the zucchini in a high-heat oven and caramelizes it, which yields a tender and flavorful vegetable that’s perfect as a light summer side dish.
The quick homemade tomato sauce adds a delicious sweet and acidic zing that really compliments the mild flavor of the zucchini.
Salting the zucchini prior to cooking draws out some of the water. Patting the zucchini dry before searing them allows them to form a delicious golden brown crust on the surface. Don’t skip this step!
Fresh tomato sauce compliments the roasted zucchini beautifully and provides a welcome contrast. But my version of the sauce doesn't require boiling and peeling the tomatoes.
This is a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan side dish that everyone can enjoy.
Zucchini - You’ll need two medium zucchini for this recipe. Yellow summer squash would also work well.
Don’t choose a zucchini or squash that’s too large, though. The inner portion of the squash that surrounds the seeds (also known as the seed core) cooks faster than the outside flesh and can get mushy in a flash. The larger the zucchini, the more seeds there are.
Cherry Tomatoes - When they’re out of season, cherry tomatoes found at the regular grocery store are the sweetest and best quality I can find.
If you find yourself with homegrown or locally purchased tomatoes during the summer, whether they’re cherry tomatoes or not, use them! Just dice up whatever fresh tomatoes you have on hand.
Avocado oil - Don’t use olive oil here! At the high heat needed to form the crust on the squash, it can burn. Avocado oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil have much higher smoke points than olive oil.
Olive Oil- Use a high-quality fragrant oil for the salad.
Fresh Herbs- Fresh thyme adds immense flavor and aroma during the roasting because its earthy notes bring out the zucchini flavor. Similarly, the fresh parsley in the tomato sauce compliments the sweet but acidic tomatoes.
However, use whatever have on hand, such as basil, fresh oregano, rosemary, or tarragon for the tomato relish.
Garlic and Shallot - If you don't have shallots on hand use a mild onion with an extra clove of garlic.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
- This recipe also works with yellow squash instead of zucchini.
- You can also swap out the sauce. I like this with a drizzle of vegan basil pesto, an herbaceous chimichurri sauce, or use leftover san marzano tomato sauce.
⏲️How to Make Tomas Keller Zucchini
This delightful zucchini recipe only takes a few minutes to prepare and is a stunning way to showcase the best produce that summer has to offer.
Step 1 - Prep the Zucchini
The first step is to cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Then use a sharp paring knife to make diagonal cuts about a ¼ inch deep across the zucchini in both directions.
This crosshatch pattern on the zucchini allows it to release excess moisture when salted. It also allows for greater caramelization and the absorption of the flavor when it's cooked.
Lay the zucchini with the cut side up and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Allow the zucchini to rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the salt to draw the water from the zucchini. This step is essential for a golden brown crust.
After they have finished resting, pat the scored side of the zucchini dry with a paper towel.
Step 2 - Cooking the Zucchini
An oven-safe saute pan is a must here. A cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan are both great options to keep in your kitchen and will work excellently for this recipe.
To cook the zucchini, start by heating oil in your pan set over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, place the zucchini into the pan, cut-side down. Let the zucchini sear for 4 to 5 minutes without moving them to ensure they form a good crust.
After 5 minutes, flip the zucchini to the other side. Add the thyme sprigs and garlic to the pan and place into a 450°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until tender.
Step 3 - Make the Tomato Sauce
While the zucchini roasts, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, combine halved cherry tomatoes, minced shallots, chopped parsley, olive oil, and Champagne vinegar.
Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Set aside to allow the flavors to meld together.
If you are using larger tomatoes, remove the excess core and chop finely. You can also turn them into a chunky puree if you prefer.
Step 4 - Assemble and Serve
Once the zucchini is cooked, transfer it to a serving platter and top with the tomato sauce. Discard the thyme and garlic.
🥗What to Serve with Roasted Zucchini
This simple and delicious side dish pairs beautifully with any protein for a complete meal that will please a crowd. Try serving the roasted zucchini with my lemon orzo salad recipe.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
Don't skip the scoring of the zucchini flesh. But take care not to cut too deep. You don't want to cut the skin or the zucchini will fall apart.
Store the wet ingredients (lettuce, tomato, onion) separately from the dry ingredients (buns) in the fridge, and recombine when ready. Good for 2-3 days.
More Summer Side Dishes
💭 Frequently Asked Questions
I do not recommend peeling the zucchini. The skin of zucchini is thin and delicate and is not tough once cooked. The skin adds texture to the final dish as well and provides structural integrity to the zucchini as it cooks.
Salting the zucchini prior to cooking helps remove some of the water from it, so instead of steaming in its own water, the squash can get beautifully golden brown and stay crisp.
Another factor is the size of the zucchini you choose. Smaller zucchini have a smaller seed core. The seed core cooks much faster than the firmer outer part of the zucchini and can contribute to sogginess. For best results, choose small to medium zucchini rather than large ones.
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Thomas Keller Style Zucchini
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Half the zucchini lengthwise. Score the flesh side of the zucchini in a cross-hatch pattern. Cut about ¼ inch deep. Liberally sprinkle the cut side with salt. Allow the zucchini to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.2 medium zucchini, kosher salt
- Pat the zucchini dry with a paper towel but do not rinse. Heat the oil in an oven-safe saute pan over medium-high heat. Place the zucchini cut side down. Sear for 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown and caramelized.2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- Flip the zucchini and add the thyme sprigs and garlic. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes until soft.2 cloves garlic, 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- While the zucchini is roasting prepare the sauce. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.½ cup cherry tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons shallots, 1 Tablespoon Champagne Vinegar, 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive-oil, 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley
- To serve transfer the zucchini to a serving platter an top with the cherry tomato sauce.
- Do not use olive oil for this recipe. You want to use an oil that has a neutral flavor and can be used at high heat.
- Larger zucchini may take up to 30 minutes to cook.