Grilled and Filled Zucchini Roll-Ups

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s zucchini season, along with summer squash (and green beans, beets, chard, etc. etc.) There are lots of ways of fixing zukes that take advantage of all their best features: firm flesh, mild flavor, compatibility with other vegetables, cheese, and seasonings. Really, why there are jokes about people having too many zucchini and keeping car doors locked to keep from acquiring more is a bit of a puzzle. Of course, I only grow one or two plants, so I seldom have the too-many-zukes problem, but there are lots of ways to cook every size and condition of zucchini so my feeling is, bring them on!

I acquired this recipe from my summer island neighbor Marilyn Smith who sent it along in response a couple summers ago for new zucchini preparation ideas. As I read it, all kinds of idea about how not to follow it kept occurring to me while observing the basic principle of slicing, grilling and filling.

This recipe is just a tad fiddley, but the result is really delicious and has potential for fun variations. It called for three small zukes. I had one about eight inches long and managed to cut off six quarter-inch thick slices. It also called for one and a half ounces of goat cheese, but I eyeballed it because life is too short to go around measuring goat cheese. In fact, if you dodn’t have goat cheese, I suspect ricotta would work beautifully. Also, instead of layering in basil leaves, I shredded them and mixed them into the cheese. I also added garlic. Then I left used over cheese filling mixture as a spread for crackers.

Part of the filling is fresh spinach or chard leaves. You will need to remove the sturdy ribs in the leaves in order to have tender leaves that will lie flat and roll up smoothly.

Grilling the zucchini slices really gives the dish a distinctive flavor as all grilling does. If you lack a grill, running them under the broiler for a few minutes would do the trick. Keep the slices dry so they are easier to handle.

The result is a very tidy vegetable side dish; it would work as well as a hot appetizer course. If you had a larger zucchini, you could probably use the recipe for an entrée, fill the roll-ups with cheese alone or add a slice of shaved ham, beef, or smoked salmon to make it more substantial.

Because this dish can be so flexible, try using the non-recipe below as a set of guidelines, season to taste, and feel free to improvise.

Grilled and Filled Zucchini Roll-Ups
  • Medium zucchini, about eight inches long
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Basil, preferably fresh
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Soft goat cheese or ricotta
  • Milk or cream
  • Spinach or chard leaves
  1. Cut the squash lengthwise into slices a quarter inch thick, removing the outside to create a flat surface.
  2. Heat the grill, and brush the slices with olive oil and salting and peppering them.
  3. Grill them until they are tender but a little firm, a couple of minutes per side, the remove to a plate.
  4. Mince the basil, parsley, and garlic finely and add to the goat cheese, dribbling in just enough milk or cream to make a spreadable mixture.
  5. Spread the cheese on the slices of grilled squash.
  6. Lay spinach or chard leaves, trimmed to fit, on the cheese.
  7. Starting at the narrow end of the squash, roll the slice up, and fix with a toothpick, and put into a baking pan.
  8. Reheat briefly before serving.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.