Zucchini in Marinara Sauce

by Elizabeth Skipper | July 21st, 2015 | Ask the Chef

zucchini in sauce (400x400)I am having difficulty getting my zucchini to be al dente when I add it to my marinara. I’ve tried steaming it and then adding it to the sauce and alternately adding it to my sauce raw. I have had both overcooked and undercooked zucchinis. Any advice on the best way to add zucchini (or summer squash) to my marinara?

There are so many unknowns about your question I can only guess at what results you want and what’s causing the problem. But here goes.

As you’re expressing a desire for optimally cooked zucchini, I assume it’s not intended to amalgamate into the sauce. Are you slicing, cubing, dicing, or grating the zucchini? Are you salting and draining it before adding to the sauce? And if precooking, what method are you using – steaming or boiling?

The zucchini being too soft could be caused by slicing it too thin, cutting it into too-small a dice, or by overcooking. Cut it into large pieces and then cook it very, very lightly. Add it to the sauce just before it comes off the heat so it doesn’t overcook.

The zucchini being too crunchy could be caused slicing it too thick or cutting it into too-large pieces, or by undercooking. Try slicing or cubing it into thinner or smaller pieces, and precook a little longer. If it’s still too hard, just cook it a little longer in the sauce until it’s the consistency you’re looking for.

What kind of pasta are you serving it on? If a chunky pasta like small shells, rigatoni, or penne is your choice, cube or slice the zucchini. That way, when you stab a forkful of everything, you’ll get a bite of it all. If you prefer a strand like spaghetti or linguini, shred the zucchini so it will stay on the fork; chunks will fall off into the sauce and not stick to the pasta.

If you’re mixing the sauce and pasta together and baking it, try skipping any pre-cooking. Under those circumstances, the zucchini will almost certainly overcook.


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