Zucchini, fresh herbs, and ricotta — wrapped into a lightly grilled, bite-sized snack — it doesn't get a whole lot better than that. This is peak summer produce at its finest, with cheese (because cheese makes everything better).
I first made these roll-ups as an appetizer, and I'm glad I snuck one as I was preparing them, because they flew off the plate the second it hit the table. What I love most about them is how they embrace mid-summer produce and fresh herbs. They're fresh and light, with a tiny hint of smoky char, plus a little richness from the cheese.
The key to making this dish is the thickness of the zucchini slices: 1/4-inch-thick slices hit the sweet spot. Using a mandoline is ideal for making even slices, although you can certainly use a knife.
These slice are wide enough to keep the rolls sturdy and give them good shape, but they're not so thick that the zucchini will split when rolled. If your slices do turn out a little thicker or thinner, don't worry — it's an easy fix. You'll just need to adjust the cook time — about a minute less for thinner slices, and a minute or so more for thicker slices. The cooking is really meant to soften the zucchini to make it pliable and easy to roll. Not to mention that little bit of char.
I prefer serving these bites at room temperature, although you can also make them ahead and serve them chilled. Take advantage of your tomato abundance by pairing these roll-ups with a side of tomato sauce, or try a light drizzle of olive oil and balsamic glaze.
Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Ricotta and Herbs
Makes approximately 24 bites
3 medium zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/3 cups ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
24 whole basil leaves
Salt & pepper
Tomato sauce, for serving (optional)
Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.
Remove both ends from the zucchini. Use a mandolin or sharp chef's knife to slice the zucchini lengthwise into slices 1/4-inch thick. Lightly brush each side of the zucchini slices with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper just before placing on the grill. Place zucchini on the grill in a single layer; don't let the slices overlap — cook in batches if necessary. Cook for about 2 minutes. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. When done, the zucchini should feel soft enough to roll and have light grill marks. Remove the zucchini from the grill, and place on a baking sheet to cool completely.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, basil, mint, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and stir together.
At this point, both the zucchini and cheese mixture can be refrigerated for a few days, until you're ready to serve.
To assemble, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese across a strip of zucchini. Place a whole basil leaf at one end of the zucchini, and starting at that end, roll up the zucchini. Set aside, and repeat with the remainder of the slices.
(Image credits: Kelli Foster)