How Italians actually eat, according to Elizabeth Minchilli

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Elizabeth Minchilli is one of the world’s foremost writers on the Italian lifestyle. In her ninth book, she explains how Italians actually eat while showing how to recreate those meals at home. It’s called “ The Italian Table .”

Author Elizabeth Minchilli. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Minchilli, Rizzoli

Parmigiana di Zucchine
Serves 4 to 6

Everyone knows melanzane parmigiana with its deep-fried slices of eggplant and gooey layers of mozzarella topped with chunky tomato sauce. Based on thin slices of tender zucchini, this is the early-summer version—just a bit lighter, and certainly more attractive with its green hues. The beach club restaurant Ferdinando serves this all season long, but I particularly love it early in the summer when the zucchini are small, sweet, and tender. The other part of this dish that’s essential is using the freshest basil you can find. 


  • 2 pounds of medium zucchini, trimmed Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
  • 12 ounces of smoked scamorza or smoked, drained mozzarella, torn or shredded
  • 1⁄3 cup of fresh basil leaves
  • 6 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (11/2 cups) 
  • 3 1/2 ounces of sliced prosciutto cotto (baked ham)

Cut the zucchini lengthwise into thin (1/4-inch) strips. Transfer them to a colander. Salt them, using about 2 teaspoons. Let them drain for 30 minutes, until they begin to sweat. Blot them dry with paper towels. 

Line a plate with paper towels. Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan, so that it comes up the sides about an inch and a half. Heat over medium-high. When the oil is hot, add zucchini slices in one uncrowded layer. (You will have to do this in several batches.) Fry the zucchini for about 4 minutes on each side, until they begin to become golden.

Transfer to the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining zucchini.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil an 8 by 10-inch ovenproof baking dish.

Place a layer of zucchini slices (one-third of the total) across the dish. Lightly season them with salt and pepper.

Scatter half of the scamorza on top, half of the basil leaves, and 1/2 cup of the grated Parmigiano. Repeat using another third of the zucchini, all the scamorza and basil, and another 1/2 cup of Parmigiano. For the final layer, finish with the remaining zucchini and Parmigiano.

Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, just until the cheese starts to melt. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cut into portions and serve immediately or at room temperature.

The front cover of"The Italian Table: Creating Festive Meals for Family and Friends", by Elizabeth Minchilli, Rizzoli, 2019.



Evan Kleiman