zucchini & ricotta pie with basil

6 to 8    |   
Prep Time:
30 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
50 to 60 minutes

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zucchini & ricotta pie with basil

One of the things I’ve learned in graduate school is that constraints can be good for creativity. In terms of writing, that means limiting a piece to a certain number of words or pages or moments — focusing on one experience, not the whole range of life. I try to constrain my words in these posts by using one or two paragraphs to tell a larger story. I love writing this way.

Constraints can work in the kitchen, too. I’m the most creative when there is almost nothing in the refrigerator. Or when I have limited equipment, as was the case with this recipe. I was cooking at the house with the pool (which belongs to a close friend) and I wanted to make a savory pie with zucchini and basil from the garden and eggs from the chickens. So I had the ingredients, but alas I could not find a pie dish. Anywhere. I forged ahead with sautéing the zucchini; I mixed up the filling. I had the pie pastry ready, but still no dish. Then it clicked: the pan I cooked the zucchini in was the same diameter as a pie dish…why not bake in it? It worked perfectly. The crust came out especially crisp and the pan looked beautiful on the table. One less thing to wash, too. Now I think I’ll constrain all my pies to ovenproof skillets.

PS: you can bake this in a pie dish…see the recipe. And you can use purchased pie pastry, of course.


1-1/2 lbs zucchini
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 eggs
1 lb ricotta cheese
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus sprigs for garnish if desired
pastry for a single crust pie


Heat an oven to 375°. Trim ends off zucchini, cut them in half lengthwise then slice thinly crosswise into half-moons. In a wide skillet (if you are baking in the same pan, use a 10-inch ovenproof skillet), heat butter or olive oil and add the onions. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini and sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until zucchini is soft and starts to turn golden, about 8 minutes. Scrape vegetables into a bowl and set aside. If using the skillet to bake the pie, wipe it out with a paper towel, but do not wash.

In another bowl, beat eggs lightly with a fork. Add ricotta, half-and-half, and 1 cup parmesan and whisk with fork until blended. Stir in chopped basil and the reserved zucchini-onion mixture.

Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 9.5- to 10-inch deep-dish pie pan or the ovenproof skillet. Pour in the zucchini-ricotta mixture and sprinkle the top with additional parmesan. Bake the pie until the top is puffed and golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.