We Tried The Thomas Keller Zucchini and Now We Want to Pair It with Everything

Updated: Jul. 26, 2023

Try the Thomas Keller Zucchini method that delivers flavorful planks of roasted zucchini without the mushiness. A tangy Vierge Sauce is the finishing touch.

When gardens and produce stands are overflowing with zucchini, you’ll need all the recipe ideas you can find to use them up. After trying the Thomas Keller zucchini method, it’s now my go-to method for preparing zucchini sides for everything from grilled chicken to summery pasta dishes.

Keep these oven-ready recipes handy to enjoy all your zucchini

What Makes This Zucchini Special?

Because zucchini has such a high water content, preparing it can be tricky: all that water is released during cooking, and the veggie is left limp and mushy. Chef Thomas Keller’s approach solves this problem with a heavy layer of salt; it draws out excess moisture from the sliced zucchini halves while also adding lots of flavor. The veggies are then seared and roasted until very tender—but because the extra water has been removed, the zucchini holds its shape and has a more appealing texture.

Keller pairs his roasted zucchini with a flavorful, French Vierge Sauce, a fresh condiment made with diced tomatoes, herbs, olive oil and white wine vinegar that comes together in minutes.

Try roasted zucchini with more homemade sauces like these

How To Make Thomas Keller Zucchini

ingredients for Thomas Keller ZucchiniNancy Mock for Taste of Home

This recipe makes six zucchini halves that will serve 4 to 6 people. The zucchini need 30 minutes to drain before they’re cooked.


For the Vierge Sauce:

  • 2 medium, vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 small shallot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon of minced, fresh basil
  • Pinch of kosher salt (or more to taste)

For the zucchini:

  • 3 medium zucchini
  • Kosher salt
  • Canola oil


Step 1: Make the Vierge sauce

making the sauce in a small white bowl on a slate cutting boardNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Use a paring knife to make an X in the bottoms of the tomatoes, then peel off the skins. Slice the tomatoes into quarters and discard the seeds and pulp. Dice the tomato flesh and place the pieces in a small bowl. Stir in the extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, diced shallots, minced basil and salt. Set the sauce aside to let the flavor develop. The sauce can also be made up to a day ahead of time, stored in the fridge.

Step 2: Prepare the zucchini

Slice the zucchini in half length-wise. Use the tip of a sharp knife to cut a cross-hatch pattern into the flesh: the cuts should be deep enough to let the salt penetrate, but don’t cut through the green skin.

Step 3: Salt and drain

cut zucchini lengthwise Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Sprinkle a generous layer of kosher salt over the cut surfaces of the zucchini halves, and use your fingertips to lightly press the salt to the surface. Place the zucchini halves cut-side-down on a paper towel-lined tray or baking sheet. Let the zucchini drain for 30 minutes.

Step 4: Dry

zucchini on a paper towelNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Use dry paper towels to pat the zucchini dry and to wipe away the excess salt.

Step 5: Sear the zucchini

searing zucchini in a skilletNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Pour just enough canola oil into a large, oven-proof skillet to coat the bottom of the pan, and place the pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and just beginning to smoke, place the zucchini cut side-down in the pan. Sear the veggies for 5 minutes; they should be nicely browned but not burned.

(If your Vierge sauce is chilled, take it out of the fridge to come to room temperature while the veggies roast.)

Step 6: Roast

Move the pan of zucchini into the heated oven. (The zucchini should still be cut-side-down.) Roast the zucchini for about 30 minutes until they’re completely tender; if your zucchini is on the smaller side, check them after 20 minutes or so. Remove them from the oven.

Step 7: Top with sauce and serve

Thomas Keller ZucchiniNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Use tongs and/or a spatula to carefully move the roasted zucchini to a serving dish. (They’ll be very soft so be careful not to tear them.) Top each zucchini half with a few spoonfuls of room-temperature Vierge Sauce, and serve them while they’re warm.

Here’s What I Thought

For me, this recipe and method solve two important zucchini problems: the mushy texture they get when cooked and the blandness of plain zucchini. The searing and oven steps give the zucchini so much delectable, roasted veggie flavor and browning. And because water is removed in the salting method, the zucchini planks don’t fall apart even once baked and tender. Plus, that salt soaks into the zucchini flesh and makes it really delicious!

Keller’s Vierge Sauce is a tasty discovery as well; it looks similar to a bruschetta topping but has tangy sweetness from champagne vinegar. The bite of diced shallots is also mellowed by the vinegar. I modified Keller’s recipe just a little by swapping fresh parsley for fresh basil—you just can’t have summer tomatoes without a little fresh basil! You can also pair roasted zucchini with fresh salsa, chimichurri sauce or a homemade vinaigrette.