It’s that time of year in my neck of the woods. Zucchini overload. Not sayin’ that it’s a bad thing. Just in case you need some inspiration, here’s a quick and easy way to serve up some of that squash. The recipe comes from our friend, Lidia Bastianich, as featured in her popular book, Lidia’s Favorite Recipes: 100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrées. These roll-ups are delicious served hot & crispy with a dipping companion of marinara sauce. Or add them to your picnic basket …they’re just as good when served at room temperature.
The trick here is to slice the zucchini into very thin strips. Not paper thin but you want them to be flexible once they are cooked. No peeling necessary but I do like to remove the skin the length of each squash as I begin to create my strips. That way you don’t end up with a strip that is less tender due to excess skin.
Once the zucchini is prepared, set up an assembly line of sorts with flour, egg wash and a strainer set over a plate to collect the drips. And, keep in mind …these can easily be made gluten-free simply by switching out the flour.
When most of the strips are battered, start heating up the oil so that it’s ready when you are.
These guys will cook up quickly since they are sliced so thin. Have a paper towel-lined tray ready and waiting for the fried goodness. It really is best to form the zucchini roll-ups while the fried strips are still warm and pliable. If you would like to serve them warm, the roll-ups can be arranged on a baking sheet then warmed up in a low oven just before serving.
If you have extra, these strips are amazing when added to a sandwich with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato, and pesto. Another thought …layer these up with some mozzarella, parmesan, and tomato sauce. After a brief stint in the oven, you’ll have zucchini parmesan.
lidia's zucchini roll-ups
Involtini di Zucchini Fritti
Adapted from a recipe by Lidia Bastianich
- 2 pounds small zucchini (about 5 or 6)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- canola oil, for frying (2 cups or more, depending on skillet size)
- 2 tablespoons well-drained brined capers
- freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon
Rinse and dry the zucchini and trim off the stem and the blossom ends. With a sharp knife, slice the squash lengthwise into strips about 1/8-inch thick, flexible but not paper-thin.
Dump the flour into a wide bowl or shallow dish. In another wide bowl, beat the eggs well with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and a few grinds of pepper. Set a wide colander on a plate, to drain the battered strips before frying.
Tumble 5 or 6 zucchini strips at a time in the flour, coating them well on both sides. Shake off loose flour and slide the strips in the beaten eggs. Turn and separate the strips, with a fork, so they're covered with batter; pick them up one at a time and let excess egg drip back into the bowl; then lay them in the colander.
Pour canola oil into the skillet to a depth of 1/3- inch and set it over medium-high heat. Cover a baking sheet or large platter with several layers of paper toweling and place it near the stove.
When the oil is very hot (not smoking), quickly slip several strips into the skillet, using kitchen tongs or a long fork to avoid spatters of hot oil. Don't crowd the strips - no more than 7 at a time in a 12-inch pan - so they crisp quickly and don't absorb excess oil.
Maintain the heat so the strips are sizzling actively. Cook on the first side for a minute and a half or so, then flip them over. They should be nicely colored on the first side: if not, raise the heat slightly. Cook the second side for another minute or so, until golden and crisp, then transfer the strips to the paper towels. Lay them flat in a single layer and sprinkle them while hot with pinches of salt.
Fry all the strips in batches and salt lightly right after. It's best to let them cool uncovered, but if you need the space, lay paper towels over a sheet of strips for draining the next ones to come out of the skillet. Let the slices cool for a few minutes.
Place a fried strip pointing away from you on your work table, with the wider end (from the blossom end of the zucchini) facing you. Place 3 or 4 capers on that end, then roll the strip tightly, enclosing the capers in the center. Stick a toothpick all the way through the roll-up, so it stays together. Roll up all the strips- or as many as you want.
Just before serving, stand the roll-ups on end and squeeze drops from a half lemon (through a strainer to catch the seeds) all over the spiral tops. Arrange them on a serving platter. If you like, scatter another teaspoon or so of drained capers all over. Serve immediately with your favorite marinara sauce.
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