I saw Valerie Bertinelli make this recipe on the Food Network and I thought I can make this and do a few little twists and turns to make it my own and according to my preferences. So thank you Valerie for the initial idea and know this recipe is my take on the basics of what she made.
Since I do not have a large family I am always looking for ways to scale down recipes in order to make them for two. Just recognize that you can double or triple this recipe according to the number of mouths you need to feed.
I was initially intrigued by how good this recipe looked but was even more pleased with how it tasted. It looks like it would be difficult to do but in actuality it’s really rather simple. All you need is a little patience, and I recognize that may be a challenge for some home cooks. But believe me, in this case, patience is well worth what you will receive in the end.
The original recipe was meatless but I like to put meat in my marinara sauce. I think it adds to the overall flavor. But rest assured, you can easily make this a meatless meal and it will be equally delicious.
So let’s talk cheesy zucchini rollatini…
Lesson Learned 1 – You will need a mandolin slicer for this recipe: In order to get even long strips to roll the filling in, you will need to use a mandolin slicer. When I first saw this on tv I thought it would be hard but it was actually rather simple. Just cut of the ends off the zucchini, set your slicer to cut a 1/8 inch slice, place the zucchini on the mandolin with the palm of your hand on top of the zucchini and move it slowly downwards to create the slice. Chances are the first slice you will need to discard as the bottom of the zucchini will be a little uneven, but beyond that you should get some great slices.
A couple of things to keep in mind: This recipe works better with larger zucchinis. You get larger and longer strips. Also it is very important to take your time during this step. Slowly move the zucchini over the blade with the palm of your hand on top. As you get closer to the top of the zucchini quit cutting and use another zucchini if needed. When I made this recipe I only needed 1 large zucchini but you should plan on two and go from there. I got five nice slices out of a large zucchini which was enough for us. Again I cannot stress enough the need to work slowly and carefully when moving the zucchini through the slicer. It really is an easy process but one you need to do with care.
Lesson Learned 2 – You will need to soften the zucchini slices before filling and rolling them: The zucchini slices will roll more easily if you soften them slightly. You can do this by filling a large skillet with a couple of inches of water and heat the water to simmering. Then put the slices in for a very short period of time (I put them in the water for a minute and a half). Then gently lift them out and place them on a paper lined plate to blot off any excess moisture. You will immediately notice a difference in the texture of the zucchini. It will be softer and much more pliable. Once they cool to the touch you will be able to fill and roll them.
Lesson Learned 3 – Make the cheese mixture first: I found it helpful to have the cheese mixture ready to go once the zucchini slices were ready to stuff and roll. When that process is done you can just keep them on the plate until your marinara sauce is heated and ready for them.
The hardest part, and believe me it isn’t really hard at all, is making the zucchini rolls. The rest is pretty basic but boy does it create one heck of a dish. Try this sometime with some garlic bread and a nice salad and you will have an impressive, delicious meal, one that you will make over and over again.
Cheesy Zucchini Rollatini...
1 Italian sausage link, casing removed (or about 1/8 pound Italian sausage)
1-2 large zucchinis
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided plus some additional for final garnish
1-2 cups marinara sauce
Italian seasoning, to taste
Italian parsley for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add about 2 inches of lightly salted water to a large skillet and bring the water to a simmer.
Mix together the ricotta, oregano, basil, lemon zest and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella. Add 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. In a small separate bowl, crack open and beat the egg. Add 1 Tbs. of the beaten egg to the cheese mixture. Stir to combine. (You will either have to repurpose or discard the remainder of the egg).
Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice them lengthwise on a mandolin slicer to about 1/8 inch thick. Reserve the larger interior slices and save the rest for other uses.
Place the zucchini slices in batches into the simmering hot water and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the slices and place them on a paper lined plate to drain the slices and remove any excess moisture. Continue this process with any remaining slices.
In an eight inch ovenproof skillet (I used a cast iron skillet), cook the Italian sausage until lightly browned. Add the marina and some Italian seasoning and cook until warmed through.
While the sauce is warming lay the dried zucchini slices out on a work surface. Spoon a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on one end of the slice and gently roll up the slice. Place on a plate seam side down. Continue with the remaining slices.
Add the slices into the warm sauce seam side down. Spoon a little marinara sauce over the tops of the slices. Sprinkle some shredded mozzarella on top. Sprinkle some Italian seasoning over the mozzarella.
Cover the skillet with foil and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven after 20 minutes and set the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle some additional mozzarella on top of the slices and place the skillet uncovered back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes. Serve with a salad and some garlic bread.