I don't recall having a lemonade stand when I was in elementary school, but I do remember sitting behind a card table in our cul-de-sac during summer break, waving shyly to our neighbors over a pyramid of club-size zucchini. "Sell, sell, sell!" my mom would shout from the kitchen window. The same three neighbors would wander over to buy one or two (and a tomato, if I had any), and on especially slow days, one of my aunts or uncles, who "just happened to be driving by"—and who just happened to have an empty Tupperware container in the passenger seat—would stop for an armful.
Mom and Dad said it was an important lesson in how to count money and talk to adults. Even then, though, I knew it had much more to do with the fact that they grew more zucchini than they knew what to do with. Every. Single. Year. And there's only so much grilled zucchini, fried zucchini, and zucchini bread a family can take. Trust me on that. Maybe if we knew zucchini pizza sauce was a thing, our embarrassment of zucchini riches wouldn't have felt so daunting.
The zucchini sauce ah-ha moment belongs to Chris Morocco at Bon Appétit, who discovered that when you cook down summer squash with just a few other ingredients, it makes a delicate, summery pasta sauce—which John and I are now 100-percent obsessed with (click here for the recipe). A few tweaks later, I morphed the recipe into a zucchini pizza sauce that can take the place of white sauce in almost every topping combo you can think of.
My favorite application so far? Top your dough with zucchini pizza sauce and ¼ to ½ cup grated Parm, bake, then finish with 2 tablespoons chopped, toasted walnuts, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil and parsley, and a squeeze of lemon. Season with a little salt and pepper; slice and serve.
PS: If you need another recipe to use up that summer squash bounty, give this pizza a try!
Zucchini Pizza Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 pound zucchini shredded
- kosher salt
- chile flakes (crushed red pepper flakes, crushed Aleppo or Urfa pepper)
- ¼ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it just begins to brown.
- Add the shredded zucchini and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the zucchini breaks down and the mixture begins to look like a chunky sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in a pinch or two of chile flakes and the Parmesan cheese. Taste and season with more salt and chile flakes as desired.
- If you're using the sauce for pizza, you're done! Just let it cool a bit, and slather on a round of dough.
- If you're using the sauce for pasta, thin it out with some starchy cooking water and toss with pasta.