You know those recipes where you don’t quite get it the first few times, but just KNOW it has potential? That’s this right here. Its presentation is deceiving- this really can be a weeknight meal.
About two months ago a recipe involving zucchini “roll ups” piqued my interest- the presentation was beautiful and I loved the idea. I tried it the next day and while we ate it, the sauce was way too watery and overall it needed a boost of flavor. Slowly I began to do trials, changing everything from the filling to the sauce, step by step.
About four trials later, and I think I’ve perfected this: it has the perfect balance of a few cheeses, tomato sauce, & zucchini. It’s also truly flexitarian- simply add or omit crumbled chicken sausage in the sauce (I’ve done both). While I like to make my own tomato sauce (something that can be a day or two before and also used for other things), using a store-bought sauce streamlines this even more.
P.S. The time I took this picture I accidentally ran out of mozzarella and used Mexican cheese instead (which explains the color)- but it tasted just as good and I loved the pic!
Cheesy Ricotta Zucchini Involtini
- 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
- optional: 2-3 Italian chicken sausages, precooked, diced (depends on how much meat you want in the sauce; I prefer less, so usually do 2)
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
- 8 ounces full fat ricotta, drained of any excess water/moisture
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- pinch black pepper
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil and/or oregano, use 1/2 teaspoon of dried in place of fresh
Easy Homemade Tomato SauceMakes roughly 2 1/2 cups
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 14- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 14- ounce can tomato puree
- Make tomato sauce (see below). Pour tomato sauce in a 9’’ cast iron skillet or oven-proof dish (about 2’’-3’’ deep). If using chicken sausage, add into sauce now.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella (give or take- feel free to eyeball), 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper and fresh herbs.
- Slice zucchini thinly with a vegetable peeler or mandolin. Place on paper towel and blot to remove any excess moisture.
- Lay down two zucchini slices, slightly overlapping each other, flat on a cutting board. Add about a heaping tablespoon of ricotta mixture to one end (leaving a bit of space on the end). Roll up ricotta in zucchini. Place the wrap seam side down in sauce. Repeat for remaining zucchini slices.
- If you have any leftover ricotta, place spoonfuls on top of the sauce.
- Sprinkle top with remaining (almost 1/2 cup) mozzarella on top.
- Place skillet in oven and bake until cheese has fully melted and zucchini is lightly tender, about 10- 15 minutes.
- In a medium sauce pot, add in olive oil, onion and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and just beginning to brown.
- Stir in tomato paste and saute until dark in red color, about 2 minutes.
- Add whole peeled tomatoes (as you add, crush them with your hands- be careful the juices will squirt out!), remaining juices, and the tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until sauce has thickened.