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Easy Zucchini Marinara

This flavourful zucchini marinara sauce requires just a handful of ingredients and some time on the stovetop simmering away to bring you a restaurant-style dish.

A close up looking down at a bowl of zucchini marinara with fresh basil leaves next to a blue serving cloth

The dish is easily vegetarian or vegan, depending on whether you top it with a vegetarian parmesan (check the label) or a good vegan parmesan such as Violife. It takes forty minutes in total to make and is worth every second of it (although if you’re looking for a quicker option you could try my 10-minute roasted red pepper sauce).

I actually came up with this recipe because there is always a glut of zucchini in our house and I’m not the greatest fan of the lean mean green vegetable to be honest.

Here in Spain, zucchini is really cheap and it’s good for you so I always end up buying some and letting it rot in the vegetable drawer as I can never think of a way to make it that won’t end up in zucchini mush and might actually taste good.

Well, now those dark days are gone. The thin zucchini slices simmer along in this tasty sauce until they are perfect translucent al-dente slices (no more mushy zucchini!).

A close up of cooked zucchini marinara in a white bowl with a spoon

What should I serve with zucchini marinara?

This wonderfully chunky yet light sauce is, of course, perfectly accompanied by pasta.

But my favourite way to enjoy it is over some creamy vegan polenta. It’s also amazing over couscous for a quick meal with a minimum of effort.

And of course, would any Italian-style dish be complete without the best vegan garlic bread ever on the side?

A leafy green salad would round off this meal to perfection.

How to make it

This zucchini marinara is so easy to make it practically makes itself (but it doesn’t, you still have to do a little work, sorry).

I usually prepare the zucchini either before I start cooking the onions or during. Peel and quarter the zucchini lengthwise and then thinly slice the quarters to a thickness of around one to one and a half millimeters.

Zucchini in a food processor that has been sliced thinly

If you have a food processor with a slicing attachment it’s perfect for this. You can also use a mandoline, or do it by hand. It is important that the slices as paper-thin so that they cook down to tender little flavour-bombs.

To start with, heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat, and when hot add the chopped onion. Cook for five minutes, stirring often until the onions are golden.

Add the crushed garlic, cayenne pepper, and dried oregano and fry one-two minutes until the raw garlic smell has disappeared. 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne will give you a bare hint of spice while 1/4 will be moderately spicy.

Close up on diced onions with some herbs and spices

Add the crushed canned tomatoes, the balsamic vinegar, water, salt, and courgette. At this stage, it should look like the picture below and you may want to kill me, but keep the faith! The zucchini slices WILL cook down.

Slices of zucchini nestled in a tomato based sauce

Keep the heat at medium-high and when bubbling, reduce to medium and leave for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until it looks like the photo below.

Close up of zucchini cooking with marinara sauce

Remove the pan from the heat and serve. The courgette should be tender and translucent and bursting with marinara flavour. Ladle over pasta, polenta or couscous, and add freshly ground black pepper, chopped fresh basil, and a heavy sprinkle of some Violife parmesan.

This sauce gets even better with age and will keep in the fridge for up to four days. I don’t recommend freezing it, however, as zucchini always tends to be mushy when defrosted.

A grey bowl with marinara dish of zucchini next to a blue serving towel on a table

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating in the recipe box, review, or comment below.

Or take a picture and tag me on Instagram (@the_fiery_vegetarian), I love seeing all your creations and presentation!

Yield: 4 servings

Easy Zucchini Marinara

A white bowl with marinara dish of zucchini and fresh basil on top

This delicious chunky marinara sauce is full to the brim with healthy vegetable goodness. A rich garlicky marinara sauce with tender wafer-thin slices of zucchini and a hint of heat, this sauce is vegan and easy enough for any beginner to make!

Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 37 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves crushed or finely minced garlic
  • ⅛ - ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 can 14oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar of modena
  • 2 zucchini (about 23 ounces/ 650grams)
  • ¼-½ tsp salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to serve
  • Chopped fresh basil to serve
  • Finely grated vegan parmesan to serve


  1. Cook the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring often, for five minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, cayenne pepper, and oregano and fry 1-2 min more.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, zucchini slices, and salt and reduce the heat to medium and keep at a lively simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve with freshly ground black pepper, chopped fresh basil, and finely grated parmesan.


The zucchini should be VERY finely sliced. If you have a food processor or mandoline you can save a lot of time and effort.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 123Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 1mgSodium 656mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 4gSugar 8gProtein 4g

Did you make this recipe?

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Wednesday 8th of July 2020

I made the Easy Zucchini Marinara. It was delicious and easy to make. I might have put too much cayenne pepper into it but it was lovely and I have enough for tea later.

The Fiery Vegetarian

Friday 10th of July 2020

So glad you liked it! Yes cayenne pepper is the devil if you put too much in

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