Zucchini Rolls with Herbed Ricotta and Caciotta

These little zucchini rolls can be served as a first course as well as a side dish. They can be assembled ahead of time and then popped into the oven just before serving.

4 large zucchini

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided for separate use

1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes with their juice      

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 leaves fresh basil, cut into thin strips

Ricotta-Caciotta Filling

1 cup (8 ounces) Ricotta, well drained

1 cup (8 ounces) shredded Caciotta (or Monterrey Jack)

2 eggs, beaten

10 large basil leaves, cut into thin strips

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut off both ends of the zucchini and then cut them length-wise into slices about 1/3-inch thick. Place the zucchini slices on the drain board on several thicknesses of paper towels. Sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and leave to drain for at least 30 minutes. Blot dry with clean paper towels

Preheat the broiler on high and position the rack 3 inches beneath the heat source.

Pour 4 tablespoons olive oil into a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat a baking sheet with the olive oil. Place the zucchini slices on the baking sheet and brush their tops with olive oil. Place beneath the heat source and broil until browned on top. Remove from oven and turn over using a spatula, brush the topsides with olive oil, return to the oven and broil on the other side.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Pour the tomatoes including their juices into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and chop coarsely. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until it begins to turn golden brown. Remove the saucepan from the heat, pour the tomatoes into the pan and return it to the heat. Cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring as necessary to prevent sticking, until the sauce is thick. Remove from the heat. Add the basil and set aside.

For the Ricotta-Gruyere Filling, mix the Ricotta, Caciotta, eggs, basil, oregano, salt and pepper together in mixing bowl until all ingredients are well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

With the zucchini still on the baking sheet, divide the Ricotta filing among the zucchini. Use a knife to spread the Filling on the top of the zucchini slices as if you were buttering a piece of bread.  For each slice, fold one end inward and roll the zucchini to form a spiral. Continue until all the zucchini slices are rolled up, leaving about one inch between the rolls on the baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the Ricotta filling is well heated and beginning to brown.

Transfer the Zucchini Rolls to a platter and drizzle the sauce over the zucchini.

To serve as a first course, spoon several tablespoons of tomato sauce onto a plate and place two Zucchini Rolls on top of the sauce. 

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 16 zucchini rotollini.

Serves 8