Side dishes have always been important in meals not just in India but all over. A side is typically a food item that accompanies the main course. It is usually served in a small portion and is responsible for elevating the the eating experience of the main course. In most meals, the main function of the side dish is to improve the nutritive value of the the meal and hence salads are the most common sides. Additionally, the sides need to be in accordance with the meal theme, provide balance of flavour and contrasting texture. To put it simply, the main function of a side dish is to tantalise the taste buds and make eating a great experience . In Italian food, often along with pastas, garlic bread, salads, vegetable gratin etc are good accompaniments.
Zucchine Al Forno is one such simple yet classy accompaniment with any pasta dish, especially a red sauce one. It is a baked dish as the name suggests(forno is oven in Italian). This dish celebrates zucchini. Either a green or a yellow zucchini works just fine. Garlic or Aglio flavour pairs very well with zucchini. Here is the recipe to this lovely side dish.
- Zucchini about 6 inches long – 4
- Bread crumbs – 1 cup
- Chopped mint – 2 tbsp
- Chopped coriander – 1/3 cup
- Garlic cloves – 7-8
- Pepper powder – 1 tsp
- Green chillies crushed – 4-5
- Processed cheese/Parmesan grated – 1/4 cup
- Extra virgin olive oil – 3 tbsp + 1 tbsp for brushing
- Cut the ends off the zucchini and slit them horizontally lengthwise. Sprinkle some salt over the cut sides and leave it for some time, to get rid of the excess moisture
- To make the topping/stuffing, in a bowl add bread crumbs, crushed garlic and chillies, chopped mint, coriander, pepper powder and 3 tbsp of olive oil. Mix in the grated cheese as well. Add salt to taste and mix throughly.
- Preheat the oven to 180 ° Celsius and grease a baking tray to hold the zucchini pieces.
- Remove the excess moisture from the zucchini pieces by dabbing with kitchen towel and lay the pieces on the greased tray cut side up. Brush the zucchini pieces with oil.
- Pile up the topping over the zucchini uniformly and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes till the zucchini is done and the topping becomes crisp and takes golden hue.
- Serve hot by the side of the pasta main dish.
As you can see this is really a very simple dish. When I make this, I stuff some medium size tomatoes also with this filling. It tastes just as yum. Other vegetables that can be stuffed are red and yellow bell peppers. One important thing to be noted is that the bread crumbs should be made from stale bread and they can be left uncovered in the refrigerator to dry them out. Also dried chilli flakes can be used in place of green chillies. We Indians are so fond of green chillies and my entire topping was green in colour, so I decided to use green chillies to go with the colour scheme 🙂 Mint and coriander can be easily replaced with mixed herbs like basil, oregano and parsley.
Don’t underrate the importance of a side dish. Make this one at your next party and you will surely be remembered for it !