Remember when we talked about fear and failure? Cooking has been a major source of learning how to fail gracefully. At first, it was emotional. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention the tears that were shed, the disappointment, and justthe desire to stop trying. It’s hard to pour energy and time into something that turns out as a flop; not to mention your stomach left growling and unsatisfied.
This recipe was born of a failure too. Intrigued by the idea of a lasagna made with thinly sliced zucchini instead of noodles, we gave it a try. We knew from experience that extra moisture can be an issue with lasagna and that zucchini emits moisture as it cooks, so we took as many precautions as possible: unfortunately, it still turned out a watery mess — though it tasted delicious.
Luckily, we were cooking with a few friends who were up for a second round. Instead of thinly sliced lasagna, we decided to stuff the lasagna inside the zucchini — avoiding the risk of lasagna sludge. Thankfully, it turned out great – the same rich, delicious taste, without the consistency troubles. And cooking alongside two of the sunniest dispositions I know always seems to help in the kitchen.
What started in failure turned out to be a great success – delicious, easy, and relatively quick (well, quicker than a full lasagna!). And gluten-free if you’re cooking for someone who is. A perfect use for the abundance of zucchini this time of year – or any time.
- 4 medium zucchinis (or 6 to 8 small)
- 1 jar marinara sauce
- 1 bunch fresh spinach
- 12 ounces part-skim ricotta
- ½ cup mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, shredded 1
- /4 cup plus 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ cup almonds (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or ½ tablespoon dried, though fresh is best if you have it)
- Kosher salt
- Ground pepper
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Wash the zucchinis; cut them in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon.
- Chop the spinach. Place the spinach on a baking tray and place it in the oven for a few minutes to wilt it down (or, place it in a dry skillet and cook down for a few minutes until wilted).
- Chop enough for ½ cup almonds. Chop enough for 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or use ½ tablespoon dried).
- In a medium bowl mix 12 ounces ricotta cheese, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, egg, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped nuts (and ¼ teaspoon or less red pepper flakes if desired). Stir well.
- Place the zucchini halves in a baking dish and lightly drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Fill each half with spinach, then cheese mixture, then top with red sauce. Sprinkle with a bit of shredded mozzarella and additional parmesan.
- Cover with foil, and bake for 15 minutes covered, then 5 minutes uncovered (depending on the size of the zucchini; it may need only another 2 minutes or so).
- Let stand a few minutes before serving.