Gratin of Zucchini, Rice & Onions with Cheese

Here’s a recipe I love making when Zucchini harvest comes in or when Zucchini’s are plentiful. This recipe comes from the incomparable Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II” cookbook. It’s hearty enough for family but elegant enough for company.  While this gratin looks creamy rich, it really isn’t. It gets it’s creaminess from the inclusion of white rice and parmesan cheese.  The liquid is mostly vegetable water, but don’t worry about having a layer of water, as the rice will absorb it. You  have to grate and drain the zucchini, so do plan on a few extra minutes. I prefer to use younger, smaller zucchini for this dish as larger zucchini can be tougher. This freezes well, so make extra and enjoy another gratin later. And it’s a powerhouse of a gratin, full of onions, zucchini and healthy parmesan cheese! Even non-vegetable lovers will like this!

Time:  1 hour     Prep:  30 min.

Diff:  Intermediate      Serves:  6


  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds zucchini 

  • 2 1/2 T salt (kosher or celtic)

  • 1/2 cup white rice, uncooked

  • 1 medium onion, minced (approximately 1 cup)

  • 5-6 T extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 2 T all-purpose flour

  • 2 1/2 cups warm liquid (zucchini juices + enough milk to equal 2.5 cups, heated)

  • 2/3 to 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (reserve 2-3 T for topping)

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Milk (if needed)


  • Wash zucchini, trim ends. Cut in half, and if seeds are large, core these out. Coarsely grate zucchini and place in a colander set over a bowl. Toss with salt. Let drain at least 5 minutes, but up to 20-30 minutes to extract more liquid from zucchini.

  • Save the drained liquid. Squeeze a handful of the zucchini and taste. If it’s too salty, rinse the zucchini and drain it again, not saving this liquid.

  • Squeeze all the zucchini in handfuls, collecting the liquid in the bowl below. Blot zucchini dry with/on paper towels.

  • Put 1/2 cup rice  in a pot of salted, boiling water. Return to boil  and  cook for only 5 minutes. Remove rice from heat, drain and set aside.

  • In a large frying pan, cook the onions slowly in 3-4 T of  extra virgin olive oil for 8-10 minutes until tender. Raise heat slightly and continue to cook and stir until lightly browned.

  • Stir in the grated and dried zucchini and garlic. Toss and stir for 5-6 minutes until zucchini is almost tender.  

  • Sprinkle in the flour, stir over medium heat for 2 minutes, then remove pan from heat.

  • Measure the drained liquid, add milk to equal 2 1/2 cups. Heat milk mixture gently, being careful not to let milk curdle or boil.

  • Stir into the zucchini-onion mixture, return pan to stove over medium high heat and bring to a simmer while stirring.  

  • Remove pan from heat again, and stir in par-boiled rice and all but 3 T of the cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.  

  • Turn mixture into a buttered 2 quart baking dish, or two one quart baking dishes if you’d like to freeze one for later.

  • Sprinkle the top of gratin with the reserved cheese and remaining olive oil.

  • Heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake in the upper third of oven until bubbling and browned on top, about 25-30 minutes. If gratin gets too browned on top, cover with a piece of aluminum foil, but uncover during the last 5 minutes. Most, if not all, of the liquid will be absorbed by the rice.  

  • Serve immediately.

As mentioned above, this is a freezer-friendly dish. Freeze gratin before cooking, wrapping well to prevent freezer-burn. When ready to cook, thaw gratin the night before, then proceed with the last step in above directions.

I hope you and your families will enjoy this wonderful gratin. It has my husband’s seal of approval, which is quite a big deal in our home!  

Until next time, wishing you all of God’s blessings, good times in the kitchen and good health!



2 responses to “Gratin of Zucchini, Rice & Onions with Cheese

  1. This looks amazing- and healthy too! If you’re interested, I host a link up every Tuesday with a great group of bloggers. I’d love for you to participate! There’s more info about it on my main menu under ‘Tell em Tuesdays.’
    Kim |


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