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Zucchini and Sautéing 101

Do you know sautéing means “jumping” in French?   It’s kind of like frying, only different.  It requires a heavy bottomed skillet, food that is cut the same small size and oil that likes really high heat.  Frying means quite a lot of oil, larger food items such as chicken parts and lower heat allowing the food to cook longer for doneness. 

The question I have with sautéing is:  do I heat the pan first and then add the oil or do I add the oil to a cold skillet and heat them both at the same time?  Usually I add the oil to a hot skillet but I’m not sure if this is the correct procedure to ensure that very little fat is absorbed by the food.  What do you think ~ how do you do it?

No matter which method, I really like sautéed veggies and since summer is about over for this year, I had to squeeze in one more dish that’s filled with fresh zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach.

By the way, zucchini, a member of the plant species, cucurbita pepo, was introduced into American culture by Italy. The Italians developed what we now call zucchini through a freak of nature – a chance mutation of one of its squash brethren. 

The Italian immigrants brought the seeds with them to California in the 1920’s when later; a small southern California seed company began distributing the seeds. 

It took a while to catch on ~ all that zucchini you see at your farmer’s markets and the ones your neighbor unloads on you were barely recognized here in the United States just 50 years ago.  Now look how prolific it is, being served as a vegetable dish, bread, dessert or as a smoothie to sip on!

This is about as easy as it gets for the veggies I bought at our farmer’s market Saturday morning and quick too.  It combines them all with some onion, garlic, chicken broth and crushed red pepper for a little heat.  With all the vibrant colors, it looks as appealing as it tastes!  I hope you like it!

Sautéed Zucchini Mix


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
3 garlic heads, minced
3 zucchini, chopped into bite-size chunks
1 bell pepper, diced
8 ounces mushrooms, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
9 ounce bag spinach
½ cup chicken broth, low sodium
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, shaved


Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are cooked.
Add zucchini, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Cook until the vegetables soften, about 4 minutes.
Add spinach and cook until it wilts.
Pour broth over all.
Add red pepper and salt and pepper.
Cook until all is heated through. 
Transfer to a serving dish.
Serve along with shaved Parmesan.

It’s a delicious colorful side dish!


  1. Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies. This looks fantastic.


  2. yes Pam in italy we say "saltati in padella"
    A lot of vegetables are very good cooked in that way.
    Yummy your zucchini!

  3. Que ricos calabacines, son una delicia.


  4. I'm in the habit of heating the oil and the pan at the same time. Is that correct? Don't have a clue.

  5. Glenda, thanks! It's a good way to eat those veggies!

    Zia Elle, I got it, stir fry (in a pan)! How come everything in Italian always sounds better?

    jose manuel, si! Yo creo que tambien!

    Stephen, I was hoping someone would tell me!

  6. Yummy this sounds good to me. I always heat the oil and the pan together as I do not like the oil spitting back at me!!! Diane

  7. Pam - check out these free video lessons (They just take a few minutes) and it answers the question about properly heating the pan to avoid sticking and how to tell when the pan is ready - I use it and am amazed at how perfectly it works.

  8. Pam Love zucchinis and this look delicious!!! gloria

  9. I preheat the pan too, Pam. Then I add the oil, and let that heat up before I add the food. I just love zucchini recipes! Actually I love all the ingredients you used in this delicious recipe.

  10. I always preheat the pan first.That way when i put oil in it is hot quicker and I can turn temperature down:)Fantatsic side dish here;)

  11. I think that a good number of my veggies are sauteed, but mostly I use this method for the base of many dishes, Italian style.

    Pam, I just wanted to let you and your readers know that I have a blog candy on to win a copy of Party Food for Girls, if you are interested (open world-wide) the info are here


  12. Another great way to use up that zuchinni. Love to jump up my food make it more flavourful.

  13. I heat the pan first, then add in the oil. But I use a wok, so I would coat the sides of the wok with oil, wait for it to heat smoking hot, then start sauteing.
    Your dish looks good, love all the veggies in it! Have a lovely day, Pam!

  14. I've got zucchini lined up on my counter, but the dang tomatoes are still green. We've picked maybe a dozen, and now I'm wondering/worrying that they won't ripen before a freeze. This saute looks like something I'd love!

  15. Hey Pam, I rushed over immediately when I saw the word "Zucchini". Hahaha! I'm a huge fan of this veg & u've added so much flavour to this dish. Well done, sweetie!

  16. Diane, that is the worst! I know what you mean.

    Larry, thanks so much! I learned several new things, such as the mercury ball test with the water and the shimmer of the cooking oil. Great videos!

    Gloria, great!

    Linda, thanks! I knew there had to be a proper way to do it and I know it makes a difference with food sticking, etc.

    Dzoli, good! Check out the videos Big Dude above mentioned. There's more good advice there.

    Alessandra, I love sauteed veggies and I can imagine all of your good Italian dishes!

    Rita, thanks! I'm with you on that!

    kitchen flavours, thank you! The videos Big Dude mentioned contained info about the oil smoking. I know now to let the oil get a little hotter and smoke more before adding the food.

    Karen, are there fried green tomatoes in your future? The tomatoes at the farmer's markets here are smaller now and not so ripe as earlier in the summer. So sad.

    Blackswan, great! Glad you stopped by and are a zucchini fan also.

  17. Sauted Zucchini + veggies is one of our faves when the fresh local produce is available. Absolutely delicious!

    I put oil in the cold pan and heat before carefully adding the veggies.

  18. I've done sauteing both ways... add the oil first and adding the oil to the hot pan.. I don't know if I can tell a difference in the methods. Either way, Love this mix!! Zucchini's are one of our favorite veggies!

  19. Larry posted the exact link I was going to post. That is one of the most useful tips I have picked up and it works every time. Just a drop of water....amazing.


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