Marinated Zucchini with Mint (Zucchine alla Menta) will become your favorite summer side dish! Zucchini are fried in oil, then topped with chopped garlic, fresh mint leaves and red wine vinegar. Enjoy this vegan, gluten-free and delicious family recipe from Naples.
I have to introduce you to one of our traditional family favorites from Naples. It wouldn’t be summer without this zucchini on our table.
Or in our sandwiches.
Think fried and marinated zucchini planks that have taken on the refreshing flavor of mint leaves, savory garlic and vinegar……yum!
Like most authentic Italian recipes, this requires just a handful of ingredients. Here are a few helpful tips.
Mint: If you don’t have access to fresh mint from the garden, you can buy a small quantity at most grocery stores. (It’s usually sold in a flat, plastic box next to the other herbs.)
Mint Substitute: If you’re not a fan of mint, no worries. You can substitute fresh basil. You need something with pleasantly potent flavor.
Vinegar: We always make this with red wine vinegar. It provides a nice zing. But, if you need a substitute, try balsamic vinegar.
Oil: You need something with a high heat point for frying, so olive oil is not a good option. I use canola oil, and Mom uses corn oil. You could use avocado oil or vegetable oil, instead.
How to make it
When I first wanted to learn to make this, Mom insisted she needed to show me how it’s done. So, back in 2016, I headed over to my parents’ house for a kitchen lesson.
The first step was to bias cut the zucchini into planks about three inches long. I suppose they’d still taste good sliced into rounds, but tradition mandates there be a nice surface area of zucchini.
Mom frowned disapprovingly at my first few attempts at cutting them, noting I wasn’t making long enough slices. So, she grabbed the knife…
I mean, I asked her to demonstrate.
So that’s how it’s done.
I tried again, this time winning Mom’s approval. What a relief!
Next, Mom fried the plain zucchini planks in oil. (There’s no flour or eggs here.)
When the zucchini were browned on both sides, Mom let the oil drip off, then arranged a layer of slices in a bowl. You need something deep enough to hold the vinegar that will be added. (I use one of these glass storage containers – affiliate link.)
Mom sprinkled salt and pepper on the zucchini planks. I tossed on a little finely chopped garlic. Mom added some snipped mint leaves.
We repeated the layers, arranging the zucchini in the opposite direction from the previous layer.
Finally, it was time to drizzle on some red wine vinegar. I insisted we document how much, so Mom grabbed a large kitchen spoon.
I suggested that perhaps we should use a measuring spoon, since I needed to blog the recipe.
That went over really well with Mom..but hey, she did it!
We let the bowl sit at room temperature for a while to let the flavors meld. Then, we were rewarded with marinated summer goodness, Italian style.
Friends, if you like fresh mint (hello Mojitos), you need to try this! If not, use basil!
(Recipe Source: My Mom, who adapted this from Nonna’s version. Originally published on June 14, 2016 after being photographed in a bowl decorated with turkeys…even though it was a vegan recipe! Mom thought no one would notice. We laughed for days! Updated now with new photos and updated text.)
Marinated Zucchini with Mint (Zucchine alla Menta)
- 1 large clove garlic
- .75 ounces fresh mint leaves (about 17 leaves)
- 2 pounds zucchini
- 1 1/4 cups canola oil for frying (or avocado oil, corn oil, vegetable oil; see notes)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Peel the garlic and finely chop it. Set it aside.
- Rinse the mint leaves and pat them dry. Snip most of them into pieces, but keep a sprig intact for garnishing your dish later.
- Rise and pat dry your zucchini. Trim off the ends diagonally. Cut each zucchini in half by making a long, diagonal slice through the zucchini. (See photos in the blog post). Then, diagonally slice each half into planks about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan on high. (You need enough oil to come up 1/4 inch high in your pan.) When the oil is hot, use kitchen tongs to place some zucchini in the pan in a single layer. (You will need to fry the planks in batches.)
- Cook the first side for 4-5 minutes, or until the top of the zucchini is starting to get brown on the edges. Flip it over and cook the second side for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. (The zucchini are done when both sides are golden brown.)
- Let the oil drip off each zucchini plank as you lift it out of the pan with tongs. Place the cooked zucchini in a dish temporarily, until you are ready to assemble layers in your serving bowl. (You need something deep enough to hold the vinegar.)
- When all the zucchini is fried, arrange a layer of zucchini in the bottom of your serving bowl, going in one direction. Add some of the salt and pepper, toss on a little garlic and some mint leaves. Add another layer of zucchini on top, in the opposite direction. Add your salt and pepper, garlic and mint. Continue making another layer as needed, going in the opposite direction for each layer. (You should get three layers of zucchini, but it will depend on the size of your bowl.)
- Drizzle on your red wine vinegar and arrange a sprig of mint on top. Let the zucchini sit at room temperature for at least 30-60 minutes before serving, to allow the flavors to meld.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days, eating them cold or at room temperature as a side dish. They're also great in a sandwich!
Other zucchini recipes to try
- One-Pot Pasta and Zucchini
- Nonna’s Zucchini Fritters
- Italian Zucchini Bake
- Zucchini Bread
- Shrimp Stew with Zucchini