Stuffed Zucchini Flowers (Blossoms)
Ahhh summer…. so much to look forward to! The delicate flowers of young zucchini plants are something we look forward to all year long in our home. I get the same question from my husband every year while planting the garden, “Are you sure you planted enough zucchini?? You know how I LOVE zucchini flowers!” This year I went a bit crazy, but boy am I glad I did! We have been harvesting these beauties for several weeks already and we couldn’t be happier.
Whenever I serve zucchini flowers to guests, they are always in amazement. I love placing two or three on a white dish and drizzling some delicious pesto for that little bit of extra color. How can anyone resist trying these? The flower is such an amazing vibrant yellow, almost orange in color, with a soft, slightly velvety texture. I tried my best to capture the color in the image but truly, the color is fascinating in person.
What I’ve noticed over the years is that everyone has their own way of making and stuffing the flowers. I personally enjoy trying all different ways since we love variety in our house! The recipe I am going to share is our favorite way. However, what I love about making the flowers is that depending on the ingredients you have in your house you can change the filling and/or the batter and they still taste amazing! Speaking of the flavor, they have a delicate zucchini flavor.
For the readers who may not have ever tried zucchini flowers, let me explain what we are cooking. When you plant any kind of squash, the plant which grows is either male or female. It is easy to identify which is which simply by the thickness of the stem. The male stem is thin, long and straight, while the female stem is much thicker and will grow the vegetable. Now, if you want to grow the vegetable DO NOT pick the flowers off of the female plant! Also, make sure to leave one of the male flowers as well or else the female plant will not produce the vegetable.
The key is to pick the flowers first thing in the morning when they are wide open (see image on right). This makes it much easier to check for insects and to fill later. If they are closed, bees, ants and other insects can get trapped in there so be careful. You can pluck the flower right at the base or snip and leave a few inches of the stem if you prefer the look of the stem. I tend to leave a few inches of the stem (see image below)so that I have something to grab when frying or baking the flowers, since they are so soft and delicate.
Ok, back to how to make these! Once you pick the flowers, lightly rinse them under water and gently dry them with a paper towel before placing them in a Ziploc bag. They need to be stored in the refrigerator until you cook them and they should be eaten that day or the following day.
We prefer the zucchini flowers stuffed with a ricotta cheese filling. Try to think of lasagna or manicotti and that is basically what my filling consists of for the zucchini flowers. I have had friends fill their zucchini flowers with mozzarella cheese, sardines, sausage, pretty much anything you can imagine. However, I have found the ricotta stays inside of the zucchini flowers the best whether I am frying them or baking them. Stuffing them is a bit tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll do great! The key is to stuff them when the flowers are wide open (freshly picked) and to using a piping bag (or Ziploc bag with a corner snipped off) to pipe the mixture in to the flowers.
Once you have filled all of the flowers you can fry or bake them, whichever you prefer. The traditional way you will see them prepared in Italy is frying them. My husband prefers that I bake them for him, and when I do I stuff them and then dip them in the egg batter (see notes in recipe) and bake them as is or I coat them with bread crumbs and drizzle a little olive oil over them. Also, while many people I know pair the zucchini flowers with a marinara sauce… I don’t tend to cook a lot of typical Italian red sauce and I much prefer dipping these delicate flowers with a light pesto sauce. (see recipe here) I think the pesto really enhances the flavor and continues to enhance the beautiful colors. I serve 2-3 per person as an appetizer and pair them with a light, white wine such as a Vernaccia.
Lastly, if you don’t have the time or space to grow a garden, most local farmers’ markets this time of year sell beautiful zucchini flowers. I watch people walk right by them so often and can’t help but think, “They don’t know what they are missing!” The same goes for friends who grow zucchini and let the flowers wither and die, not knowing the treasures they have in front of them. I highly recommend asking people who do not cook/eat their zucchini flowers if you can have them. Most people will gladly give them away and tell you that they either didn’t know they are edible or they don’t know how to cook them. Now you know how ;)
Here is my zucchini flower recipe:
- 12 zucchini flowers (blossoms)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 large, organic egg
- ⅓ cup of freshed grated Parmigiano cheese
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 4 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅔ cup of all-purpose flour (see notes for alternatives)
- 1 cup of soda water (see notes for alternatives)
- 1½ cups of olive oil, vegetable oil or canola oil
- Rinse flowers under light stream of water (remember they are delicate) or gently wipe them with a damp paper towel.
- Place the flowers on a paper towel while you prepare the batter.
- Whisk together the flour and soda water. It will appear frothy, which is normal.
- Set aside while you prepare the filling.
- Mix together the ricotta, Parmigiano, basil and egg.
- Keep mixing until the cheese forms a smooth consistency.
- Place mixture into a piping bag or Ziploc bag (snip a corner).
- Gently open the petals and remove the pistil with your fingers or a scissor.
- Carefully pipe in about 1-2 tablespoons of filling into each flower. They will swell as you fill them!
- Leave enough room at the top to twist the top of the petals together and close the filling within the flower.
- Dip each flower one by one into the batter, holding it over the bowl to allow the excess batter to drip off.
- Carefully lower the flowers one by one into the oil for approximately 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the flowers from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet in the oven while you cook the remaining flowers.
- Sprinkle salt and serve immediately.
1) Substitute the soda water with ice cold water for a lighter batter.
2) Instead of flour, beat an egg and add 1 cup of beer
Buon appetito… Yum!