Of all the gifts Italy has given me over the years, zucchini blossoms are pretty high on the list of things I love about this country. I had never had them before I moved to Italy, and even though I grew up with my mothers’ garden overflowing with zucchini in the summer, I didn’t even know they were considered a food. I still remember the first time I tried one, fresh from the garden in Moneglia on the Ligurian seaside: my now-husband’s aunt filled them with cheese and anchovies, then battered and fried them in olive oil. Besides the beautiful presentation and delicate flavor, there is something mystical about eating flowers that brings out my inner-child. In fact, when I handed Juanita her first stuffed blossom to taste the other day she was incredulous: “I can eat flowers?! Like bees, and fairies?”
While the magic wore off for her pretty quickly (when she decided it “smelled like vegetables”), I am constantly in awe of these delicate yet robust little flowers. So versatile and beautiful, they add a touch of grace to any dish they accompany.
Ricotta-stuffed zucchini blossoms with almonds and mint
- 12 fresh zucchini blossoms
- 1 cup (250 g) whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup (30 g) grated parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup (30 g) ground almonds
- 15 mint leaves, washed and diced
- 2 flat fillets of anchovies, diced (optional)
- extra-vergin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Carefully open each blossom and gently remove the pistil, rinse in cold water and dry on paper towels.
Stir together ricotta, half of the parmesan cheese (set aside the other half for later), egg, ground almonds, mint leaves and diced anchovies. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Carefully fill each blossom with about 2 rounded teaspoons of ricotta filling, gently twisting end of blossom to enclose filling. Arrange the filled blossoms on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.
Bake, in preheated oven, for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is cooked through and the flowers are golden. Serve warm.