Zucchini Ripieni

These tasty stuffed courgettes are a regional speciality from Liguria in the north of Italy. Serve Zucchini Ripieni (zoo- kee-nee ree-p’yay-nee) as a vege-table accompaniment to a plain meat dish, especially grilled steaks.

2 oz. dried mushrooms

12 medium-sized courgettes, trimmed

2 oz. fresh white breadcrumbs, soaked in

1 tablespoons milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

6 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 oz. prosciutto, chopped

2 fl. oz. olive oil

Place the dried mushrooms in a small mixing bowl, pour over enough water to cover and set aside to soak for 30 minutes.

Drain the mushrooms and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil over high heat. Add the courgettes and boil for 7 to 8 minutes or until they are just tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife. Remove the pan from the heat and drain the courgettes in a colander. With a sharp knife, slice the vegetables, lengthways, in half and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the flesh from each half, taking care not to break the skins. Set aside.

With your hands, squeeze any excess moisture out of the breadcrumbs and place them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the reserved courgette flesh, the eggs, salt, pepper, oregano, half the cheese, the prosciutto and the reserved mushrooms.

Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together until they are thoroughly combined.

Preheat the oven to fairly hot 400°F (Gas Mark 6, 200°C). Using a pastry brush, coat a shallow ovenproof casserole, large enough to take all the vegetables in one layer, with a little of the oil. Set aside.

Using a teaspoon, spoon a little of the stuffing into each courgette half and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops.

Place the courgettes in the casserole and sprinkle with the remaining oil.

Place the casserole in the centre of the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the courgettes are golden on top. Remove the casserole from the oven, transfer the courgettes to a warmed serving dish and serve immediately.

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