Friday's Italian lesson....involtini is a derivative of the word involto which means "bundle" or alternatively "wrap" or "packet". It can essentially be any outer thing wrapped around some sort of filling. In this case, it's zucchini wrapped around a ricotta filling nestled into a tomato sauce, sprinkled with parmesan and then baked to golden deliciousness.
Sounds fancy, right?
The end product does make a pretty fancy presentation but getting to that point is rather simple.
Start with thinly sliced zucchini....I look for the most symmetrical ones I can find and use a mandoline to slice them but you can also use a vegetable peeler or if you have stellar knife skills, have at it. Lightly oil and S&P them and bake until they're pliable.
While they bake, make your filling. Both of these steps can be done ahead of time and assembled when you're ready, which makes this a great party appetizer.
When you're ready to assemble divide up the filling among the zucchini and roll them into little bundles.
Put a thick layer of your favorite marinara....I swear by Rao's Arrabiata, but you do you, or make your own.
Stand those little suckers on their ends and nestle them down in that sauce.
Grate a healthy amount of parm on top and you're ready to bake. I often do this in the morning, cover it with foil and put it in the fridge until we're ready to eat. 25-30 minutes in the oven....until it's melty and bubbly and you're good to go.
Hubs and I have eaten this on it's own....with a salad.....the other night, with pork chops....versatile stuff.
It's also a great idea to make extra filling and use to stuff under the skin of chicken breasts or top some toasts and then pop under the broiler for a few seconds. So yummy.
The filling is endlessly adaptable also. I use basil, thyme, and oregano, but your favorite herb combos would, of course, work. I've seen a suggestion of mint and chives which would be summery. Add some sauteed greens....spinach, chard or kale would all work.
Here's my recipe:
adapted from Food52.com
2 large zucchini
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ricotta (I use whole milk)
zest of one lemon
heaping tablespoon chopped herbs...basil, oregano, thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon grated parmesan
1/2 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 deg F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or Silpat, or rub lightly with olive oil. Trim the stem end of each zucchini. Stand each vertically, and make 1/4-inch thick cuts down to create long slices. Arrange the slices on the sheet pan. Drizzle the zucchini lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer pan to the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove pans from the oven, flip the slices over and roast for another 5 minutes. Remove pan from the oven.
Note: the timing on baking will depend on how thick you sliced your zucchini. You're looking for them the be pliable enough to roll.
To make the filling, in a medium bowl, stir together the all the filling ingredients....ricotta, lemon zest, herbs, garlic, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Spoon tomato sauce into a 9-inch round or square baking dish....thickly cover the bottom. Place a spoonful (about 2 teaspoons each) of the filling at one end of each of the zucchini slices. Roll the slice into a tight coil and place it on its end in the tomato sauce. Once they're all in the dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a healthy grating of parmesan. Transfer to the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and cheese melted.