Summer in my family always means a lot (and I mean a lot) of zucchini. Every Summer, my father plants three zucchini plants that grow into monsters with minds of their own, taking over the garden with their leaves the size of dinner plates. As a kid, I remember trying to be diligent about picking them when they were small and tender, about 6 inches long, but often times we would miss a few zucchini that would hide alongside the cucumber plants until they were over a foot long. This forced my mother to get creative with the ways she could prepare the squash – ratatouille, stuffed zucchini, zucchini bread, fried zucchini, and more. I look back at this time and am so impressed by my mother’s creativity and resourcefulness. She saw the overabundance she had and worked to feed her family with what the garden supplied, and then made large portions of meals to freeze for later.
As an adult, I now follow in my mother’s footsteps to prepare meals with the abundance that is given to me. After finding the remaining jar of my homemade marinara sauce in the freezer from last Summer’s tomatoes and seeing my parents’ garden, this zucchini rollatini was born. While I’ve made many eggplant rollatini dishes in my past and stuffed the eggplant slices with ricotta cheese, these zucchini slices are stuffed with a ground chicken and herb mixture. To prevent the zucchini from becoming watery and soggy, the filling is thickened with a bit of rice flour, and the rolls are topped with tomato sauce after baking, instead of baking the rolls in the sauce. I had the best luck using zucchini that were about 8 inches long, and a little thicker than average so I could easily cut wide strips. The cheese in the filling is completely optional – I’ve made this dish with and without and both worked well. After the zucchini rolls come out of the oven, top them with your favorite marinara or tomato sauce.
Summer Zucchini Rollatini
3 medium Zucchini
1 lb. Ground Chicken
¼ cup. Olive Oil, divided
½ tsp. Sea Salt
½ tsp. Dried Oregano
¼ cup packed Fresh Basil
2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley
1 small Red Onion, diced
2 large cloves Garlic, minced
2 tsp. Rice Flour (or Corn Starch)
1 large Egg
¼-½ cup coarsely grated fresh Mozzarella (optional)
1-2 cups of your favorite Marinara or Tomato Sauce
Cut the ends off of the zucchini and slice each lengthwise into ¼” slices. Rub them in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and lay them on a parchment covered baking sheet, keeping them in a single layer. Place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for about 10 minutes on each side, or until the slices are pliable and can be rolled, but not too soft. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
In a pan or small dutch oven, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions for 3-5 minutes or until they begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the minced garlic and saute until the garlic begins to turn fragrant, then add in the chicken. Stir the chicken frequently, continually turning the ground meat so that all sides cook and so that any water released can cook out and evaporate.
Add the dried oregano and sea salt and continue to stir until the chicken is no longer pink and nearly cooked through. Add the rice flour to the chicken and stir until the flour is mixed throughout and any remaining cooking juices in the pan have begun to thicken. Once the chicken mixture begins to thicken, remove the meat from the heat, pour the mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. In a separate bowl, whisk an egg until mixed well, and add the egg to the chicken once the chicken is no longer hot. Mix the egg, parsley, and basil into the chicken mixture. Fold in the mozzarella to the chicken. If the mixture still looks a little soupy, add additional flour about ½ tsp.
In the center of each zucchini slice, place a small golf ball-sized amount of the chicken filling and carefully roll the slice so that the ends of the zucchini are tucked round and under the filling. Place the zucchini rolls end side down in a 9×9 inch square pan (or larger) until the pan is full. Bake the zucchini rolls at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. Top rolls with your favorite sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella or Parmigiano Reggiano, if desired.