Baked Zucchini with Pancetta & Breadcrumbs- Because I am an Omnivore

Am I bad?

I made a zucchini dish again. Baked Zucchini with Pancetta & Breadcrumbs.

Which sounds delicious. But you see, I am an omnivore (in theory).

I use this label (though I hate it) not because I eat meat and vegetable, but because I want the culinary world spread at my feet. I want to experience the exotic, taste the unusual. I want to travel to far away lands without even leaving my kitchen. I want it all and I want it on my plate (in theory).

Because (in theory) I am not the kind of person who chooses to limit myself, I can’t imagine, with all that life has to offer, why I would ever say to myself: “Oh, I no longer need those experiences. I am happy with just these experiences.” That’s the point of being an omnivore, right? The choices and experiences should be limitless (in theory).

But (in reality) I am a crappy omnivore. Sometimes I forget to even put meat in the dinner. Heck, we eat vegan meals several times a week. Maybe my grocery skills are lacking? Just look inside my shopping bag. Too many of the same old things.

I go to the Farmers Market most every week; I look forward to the selection I know I will find. I fantasize about all the inspiration I know I will find.

asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, potatoes, chicory, cabbage, rhubarb, leeks, spinach, spring onions, purple-sprouting broccoli, new potatoes, cauliflower, radishes, carrots, watercress, apples, damsons, medlars, pears, quince, plums, peaches, chestnuts, elderberries, artichoke, eggplant, salsify, butternut squash, carrots, celery, zucchini, fennel, garlic, kale, cucumber, onions, turnips, watercress, celeriac, kohlrabi, pumpkin, sunchokes, parsnips, chicory, beets, mustard, dandelion, grapes, purslane

But then I come home with just a few expected items. Sure they are seasonal. But when it comes to green, I tend to fall back on:

  • Brussels sprouts in autumn
  • Kale in winter
  • Asparagus in spring
  • Zucchini in summer

What kind of omnivore would reach for the same old same old when there is a world a vegetal inspiration to be had? Not this one, I tell myself (in theory).

But guess what? There is one week left of summer and I did it again. I looked inside my shopping bag this week and saw I had chosen zucchini. I don’t even remember deciding. Let alone actually buying it.

This omnivore is on autopilot and I am none too happy about it.

So I am shaking up my zukes this week. Because when it comes to zucchini for a weeknight meal I usually slice them into coins, brown them in olive oil, and toss them with grated Parmigiano. I serve them as a side dish– delicious but mundane.

Not today. Today these summer squash are moving to the center of my plate. I am not thinly slicing them crosswise either. I am halving them lengthwise. This meal is going into the oven al forno Italian style with sweet onions, crunchy breadcrumbs- even some meat. Pancetta!

Because I am an omnivore.

Baked Zucchini with Pancetta & Breadcrumbs serves 4 as main course 8 as side dish

CLICK here for a printable recipe

adapted from La Cucina Italiana

  • baked zucchini5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion (about 1 large)
  • 2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 4 slices flat pancetta (about 4 ounces), cut in half crosswise (substitute with prosciutto or bacon slices)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a 12x12 baking dish and spread to make a bed for the zucchini.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine bread, cheese, and rosemary. Pulse until bread is broken into chunky crumbs and the mixture is combined.
Put zucchini on top of onions in a baking dish, cut-side up. Put 1 piece pancetta, prosciutto or bacon between each zucchini piece, then sprinkle with bread mixture and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until zucchini is very tender, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Greg Henry
Sippity Sup