Sunday, July 28, 2013

Zucchini Stuffed with Ricotta

Tuscany, together with Provence, tops the list of my "culinary" places to see. And when I think about summer in Tuscany, I imagine that this zucchini dish could be served there with a perfectly fluffy white bread and a glass of regional red wine, at a patio, on a table covered with a red checkered tablecloth.

This vegetable light dish became one of my favorite this summer and recently, when weather was not so hot, I made it once a week after my Friday visit to farmers market where I buy these round zucchinis.

After my experiment with fried zucchini blossoms, I was planning to try more zucchini blossom dishes. Unfortunately, my zucchini plants did not survive the heat we had a couple week ago. But the filling I used here is similar to what I wanted to put into these blossoms.

This ricotta filling is as delicate as the zucchinis. It does not overshadow their mild taste. Just a little bit of garlic and fresh herbs make it a perfect addition. Roasted pine nuts bring some crunchiness to the soft texture. Then a stronger tomato sauce, in which the zucchinis are baked, add some spiciness and sourness to the whole dish.

Zucchini with Ricotta Filling in Tomato Sauce
(Serves four)

8 small round zucchinis,
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese,
2 garlic cloves, minced,
1 egg,
1-2 tbsp cup fresh chopped herbs such as oregano, thyme, and marjoram,
1/4 cup roasted pine nuts,
1/4 cup dried all natural bread crumbs,
1 small onion, chopped,
2 cups tomato sauce,
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 370F.
2. Wash the zucchinis. Cut their tops off at about 4/5th of their heights. Using an ice-cream or melon scoop, gently scoop out the flesh, leaving 1/4 inch-thick walls.

3. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add onion and fry for 2-3 minutes, until transparent. Add chopped zucchini flesh that you scooped from the zucchinis and fry until slightly gold. Pour in a tomato sauce and bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 3 minutes. Transfer to an oven-proof dish in which zucchinis will be baked.
4. To make the filling, put the ricotta in a medium bowl. Add egg, bread crumbs, pine nuts, minced garlic, herbs, salt an pepper, and mix all the ingredients using a spatula.

5. Divide the filling among the zucchinis and cover them with their top parts. Place the zucchinis in a baking dish on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake the zucchinis for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
Serve warm with white breads.