This recipe is based on an amazing appetizer I had at one of my favorite restaurants in Virginia called Burtons. Burtons is a chain, but their menu is very different from most restaurants in that they cater to patrons with allergies and gluten sensitivities. Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have allergies and love gluten, you will be very happy eating here. But if you do have allergies and are allergic to gluten, you can rest assured that there will be many delicious offerings on their menu for you!
I am working on a vegan version of this, but for now, this vegetarian, low-fat, low-carb version of lasagna is sure to please. This takes a few steps to get going, but it is well worth the time. This works as an appetizer or a meal. Your family will love it!
Stuffed Zucchini Lasagna Rolls, Vegetarian and Gluten Free
8-10 large zucchini
1 -2 tsps salt
1 cup crushed tomatoes, or 1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 1/2 cups part skim Ricotta cheese
1/2 to 1 cup Parmesan, grated
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Basil, or 1/2 tsp dried (fresh is best here)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
Cut off top and bottom of each zucchini and slice lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips. Discard both ends with skin. You do not want the strips to be too thin as they will break apart and for this reason I do not use a mandoline, just a very sharp knife. Thicker is better! You will need about 20-30 strips for a small casserole. There is a very small learning curve to this.
Lay your zucchini strips on paper towels, and salt each strip generously. Turn over, and salt the other side. Let sit for about 10 minutes. This will draw the water out of the zucchini. Pat dry with paper towels. It is very important that you don’t skip this step.
Line a baking sheet (or two, if needed) with a Silpat and spray with cooking spray (very important to spray with oil as they will stick if you don’t). Take the strips of zucchini and arrange on the Silpat. It is okay if the ends are overlapping just a bit. Roast 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees until the zucchini are soft and a bit transparent. Remove from the oven. Carefully lay the zucchini out on a clean kitchen towel to dry and cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
While the zucchini slices are cooling, prepare your filling. Combine ricotta, parm, basil, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning in a bowl. Mix well. Set aside.
Add about a 1/2 cup to a cup (depending on the size of your dish) of your favorite sauce to the bottom of an oven proof casserole dish. There should only be about 1/4 of an inch of sauce in the bottom or your dish will get too watery while cooking. Less is better, and you can add more if needed later on.
When the zucchini strips are cool enough to handle, using a thick knife knife or spoon, spread about a tablespoon of the filling onto each strip. Gently roll up the strip and place each roll in your baking dish, with the seams against the dish or next to the next roll. The filling acts as a binder and they will not unroll. Continue in this manner until you have used all your zucchini slices.
Top with grated Parmesan. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven and let sit so that the extra moisture is absorbed. If after 15 minutes you find it is still a bit watery, you can drain out the remaining moisture.
Before serving, add a pinch more of Parmesan. These are delicious, healthy, vegetarian and gluten free – and kids will love them too!