Think of these zucchini roll-ups as like lasagna, but without the pasta! Precooking the zucchini softens it enough to roll it up with some cheese and herbs. Top with a quick fresh stovetop tomato sauce, bake, and serve!
For the zucchini:
- 3 large (fat) zucchini (2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, or olive oil spray
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes, crushed in a bowl with your hands
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
For the filling:
- 1 cup fresh ricotta
- 3/4 cup grated freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for the topping
- 1 large egg
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 20 to 30 basil leaves
- 2 baking sheets
- Parchment or non-stick foil
- A large, shallow baking dish (approximately 8x10 inches)
1 Pre-cook the zucchini: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and coat lightly with cooking spray or oil.
Cut a half-inch or so off of each end of the zucchini. Then cut a long, thin vertical slice from one side -- the goal is to have a flat surface so the zucchini will be stable as you slice. Lay the zucchini cut-side down.
Next, trim the peel from both sides, which will make the slices easier to roll up later on. Leave the top peel intact to provide a little color to your dish.
Finally, cut each zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices (a ruler helps -- the slices are thicker than you might expect!) You ultimately want 12 slices total for this dish.
Lay the slices on the sheet pans. Brush or spray the top of the slices with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the slices have softened just enough to be pliable and are slightly transparent -- check the zucchini slices frequently as they bake.
Remove from the oven and set aside until cooled. Lower the oven temperature to 400°F.
2 Make the sauce: In a wide saucepan, combine the olive oil and garlic and set the pan over medium heat.
Let the garlic sizzle for about 20 seconds, and then add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and pepper. Bring to a boil and adjust the heat to a simmer.
Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly (precise time will vary depending on the brand of tomatoes you use). Taste and add more salt and sugar, if you like. Stir in the basil leaves.
3 Make the ricotta filling: In a medium bowl, stir the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg, pepper and parsley together.
4 Assemble the roll-ups: In a medium (8x10) baking dish, spread about 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom.
With the zucchini still on the baking sheet, spread about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta filling over each slice. Place a couple of basil leaves on top of the filling. Roll the slices into cylinders and set them in the baking dish with the seam sides down.
Spoon more tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle with more Parmesan. If you want to make these ahead of time, you can refrigerate them, covered, for up to a day.
5 Bake the roll-ups: Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles. Let the zucchini rolls rest for a few minutes. Use a large spoon to scoop the rolls into shallow bowls for serving. Serve with crusty bread and a salad if you like.