Skip to content

Zucchini & rice gratin

The annual zucchini inundation has been going on since last month. Usually we chop then dry-sautée three or four of them in olive oil, and serve as a side dish. But if we skip cooking zucchini for a week, we accumulate a bagful which sits forlornly in the fridge.

So what do you do with several pounds of zukes or other summer squash? You make a gratin, with the help of rice and cheese!

zucchini and rice gratin

Some words about the rice: Make sure it isn’t clumpy before you mix it with the other ingredients. I ran into this when using a medium grain like Thai Jasmine. Break it apart with your fingers, where needed. I’ve also used basmati rice, which separates nicely; but in that case, don’t skimp on the liquid materials. You might even need to add another tablespoon or two of buttermilk when using a drier long grain rices.

Some words about the cheese: Don’t skimp. I made the mistake of using about half (around 3 ounces), and the rice portion turned out far too dry. As for the cheese variety, make sure at least half of it is of the melty orientation, like Monterey Jack or Gruyère. Also make sure at least half is of the strong-flavored orientation, since both rice and zucchini are otherwise bland characters in this dish. For example, good flavor and texture resulted when I used 1 ounce Manouri, 3 ounces Gruyère and 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano.

Some words about the herbs: If you don’t have fresh basil, feel free to substitute a (much) smaller amount of tarragon or thyme, fresh or dried.

Possible future variation: Add the zest of a lemon to the cheesy-rice mixture, and its juice at the end of cooking the onions.


  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch disks
  • 2 cups onion, diced into small pieces
  • olive oil for sautéing; garlic-infused oil is recommended, if you have it.
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • (optional) 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 ounces cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt
  • 1/2 cup basil, chopped finely
  • 1/4 to 1/2 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF degrees, and lightly oil a 3-quart casserole dish.
  2. Sauté the zucchini in the oil over high heat until lightly browned. Season with a little salt while cooking. Set aside.
  3. Sauté the onion and coriander in oil over medium-high heat until the onion bits are golden brown. Season with a little salt while cooking. If you have some white wine, add it near the end, and bump up the heat a bit to boil off most of the moisture. Set aside to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, combine and thoroughly mix the rice, cooked onions, eggs, cheese, cream, buttermilk (or yogurt).
  5. Season the mixture with pepper, then stir in the basil.
  6. Arrange a layer of the zucchini — about a third of it — on the bottom of the casserole. Top it with half of the cheesy-rice. Repeat with the remaining zucchini and cheesy-rice, ending with a cap of zucchini.
  7. Sprinkle the top with grated parmesan.
  8. At this point, you can store the gratin in the fridge overnight, if you wish to cook it later on. Bake for 40 minutes if cooking immediately, or 50 to 60 minutes if cold, until bubbly and the Parmigiano topping has become golden. Leftovers microwave easily.

Submit a comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked with a red diamond, .