Summer is definitely here. And with it come chilled glasses of Falanghina, long walks, and lazy afternoons.
Although baking is not ideal in this weather, there's a nice alternative to the usual and world-known cousin Parmigiana di Melanzane, quintessential summer staple. This "tortino in bianco" version, a tomato-less zucchini baked dish, is a summer favorite, and very popular among my circle of friends and family. More delicate than the eggplant counterpart, it combines the principles of Parmigiana, yet with a more subtle gusto.
2 kg (4.4 lbs) ribbed heirloom zucchini (zucchine romanesche)
Béchamel sauce (halve quantities to yield 1 1/2 cups)
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter for greasing
Salt and pepper
Thinly slice the zucchini length-wise (with a mandoline you can obtain thinner wafers) and sauté them in batches in plenty boiling olive oil. Fish them out with a slotted spoon after a few minutes, the time needed is according to how thinly they have been cut.
*For a "leaner" version, zucchini slices can be grilled, instead of fried.
Grease the bottom of a large enough baking pan with butter, coat with breadcrumbs, and begin layering the zucchini slices, alternating with generous amounts of grated Parmigiano, lashings of béchamel sauce, and a drizzle of olive oil. If you like, you can add sliced Mozzarella as well, but not Bufala, which tends to be too watery. The risk is a soggy mess.
Top the last layer with more Parmigiano, a few curls of butter and some breadcrumbs.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until a nice tan crust forms. Remove from the oven and wait for the ambrosia to cool before you apply to face.
Best eaten at room temperature the next day. During overnight refrigeration, elements firm together, making this leftover dish an excellent sandwich filler.