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 (6 to 8 small)
- 1 bunch fresh spinach
- ½ cup chopped almonds
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (substitute ½ tablespoon dried)
- 12 ounces part-skim ricotta
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 jar marinara sauce
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Wash the zucchini; cut them each in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon.
- Chop the spinach; place it in a dry skillet and cook it down for a few minutes until wilted.
- Chop ½ cup almonds and 1 tablespoon fresh oregano.
- In a medium bowl, mix 12 ounces ricotta cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, 1 egg, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, oregano, chopped almonds, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. 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 the cheese mixture, then top with marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and additional Parmesan cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes covered, then 5 minutes uncovered (depending on the size of the zucchini; smaller zucchini may need less time). Let stand a few minutes before serving.