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Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms

 

Who would have thought you could stuff and fry sage leaves? Not I, until a few months ago, when I ate them at a restaurant in London. Since then, I’ve been counting the days until the leaves on our sage plants were large enough to pick. With the plants now at their peak, the timing was perfect. They’re so easy to make, it’s not really much of a recipe, but I’ll take you through the steps.

First, smush some anchovies over  one leaf.  Please don’t tell me you don’t like anchovies – this is so darn delicious and addictive it will make you a convert.

Then cover with another leaf of the same size and press down hard.

Hold the sage leaf “sandwich” by the stem and swipe each side of the leaf in a batter. The batter is made with only flour and sparkling water (San Pellegrino is my water of choice). There’s no need for baking powder or eggs. Just mix the flour and water until you have a consistency like thick pancake batter.

Have some vegetable oil heating in a skillet while you prepare the leaves, then when it’s good and hot, place the leaves carefully into the hot oil. Fry on one side until golden, then flip and do the same with the other side of the leaf.

While I was at it, I also stuffed and fried some zucchini blossoms I got from my son and daughter-in-law’s garden. I posted the “recipe” online way back in the early months of this blog, more than a decade ago. But why not repeat it now since you may have access to some of these lovely, edible flowers. It’s best to pick them first thing in the morning, when the blossoms are wide open and you can pull out the stamen (and any critters that may be inside).

Cut a piece of mozzarella cheese and push it down into the center of the flower, along with a small piece of anchovy. Press the flower shut and twist it a little near the end of the flower. It won’t be completely sealed, but don’t worry because after you dip it into the batter (the same one you use for the sage leaves), the batter will form a seal and keep the stuffing from oozing out.

Fry in some hot, deep vegetable oil, turning once, until they’re golden all around.

Dig In. These are so crunchy and delicious, it’s a good thing we didn’t pick more sage leaves or blossoms, or we’d have eaten ourselves sick!

For other ideas on what to do with zucchini blossoms, click here.

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Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • sage leaves
  • anchovies (salted, in oil)
  • zucchini blossoms
  • mozzarella cheese
  • flour
  • sparkling water
  • a pinch of salt
  • vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. BATTER:
  2. Just mix enough flour and enough sparkling water until you get a mixture that’s the consistency of pancake batter. It’s best to let it sit at least 15 minutes to help make it smoother.
  3. FOR THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS:
  4. Pull the stamen from the inside of the zucchini blossoms.
  5. Cut a piece of mozzarella into a small strip and place it inside the zucchini blossom, along with a salted anchovy.
  6. Dip the flowers into the batter, and deep fry in hot oil.
  7. FOR THE SAGE LEAVES:
  8. Smush some anchovies onto one side of a sage leaf.
  9. Cover with a sage leaf of a similar size and press down.
  10. Holding the leaves by the stem, swish it in the batter, covering both sides of the leaves.
  11. Fry in hot, deep oil.
 

Zucchini Blossoms Three Ways

Zucchini Blossoms Three Ways

 One of the joys of having a backyard garden is being able to grow zucchini — not so much for the actual vegetable, which you can buy at any supermarket or farmer’s market. But for the beautiful blossoms that can be used in a plethora of ways. In Italy, it’s easy to find them in markets when the season is right. Here in the U.S. though, if you haven’t got a garden, you’d better quickly make friends with someone who does, or you’ll be out of luck.

The fragile blossoms are best picked early in the day when the flowers are open. You’ll want to pick the male blossoms (the ones on the long stems, but leave a few to help with pollination.) Flick out any unwanted visitors (bees, for instance) but I also rinse mine in the kitchen sink because a few ants are usually tagging along for the ride too.
Next, I open the blossom and carefully remove the pistil in the center. (If I’ve got my nomenclature wrong and there’s a botanist or some other smartie-pants reading this, please feel free to correct.) I also remove the little green thing-ies sticking out near the base of the flower. (Yea, I know, I really do need that botanist.) Neither of these steps is necessary, but that’s just how I roll.
 Then you’re all ready to use those colorful blossoms. Truly though, they don’t have much taste. They’re more of a vehicle for stuffing, or for lending a pretty look to a dish.  One way that showcases them beautifully is this frittata, which also incorporates ricotta cheese and cherry tomatoes. This frittata is just ready to head to the oven, after having been started on the stovetop. The eggs will puff up and surround the flowers, while the ricotta will start to heat up and blend into the eggs. Use goat cheese if you prefer.
 Another delicious way to eat zucchini flowers is to stuff them and deep fry them. Yes, I know fried food isn’t good for you, but once or twice a summer, what the hey!
I make a batter simply by mixing flour, a bit of salt and sparkling water. Use beer for the liquid if you prefer. Some people also like to mix an egg in with the flour, but I find it’s not necessary. Just dip the flower quickly in the batter. The filling won’t come out if you give it a swirl.
They are so irresistible, and there are a myriad of ways to stuff them, including the traditional mozzarella cheese with a bit of anchovy – my favorite.

 

The ones below were stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella and bits of cooked zucchini.
 If you’re not up for fried food, what about pizza with zucchini blossoms? You can purchase dough already made from your local pizza shop, or buy some in the frozen food case at your supermarket. If you’ve never made grilled pizza, here’s a post instructing you how to do it.
And while you’re at it, grill some zucchini, roast some tomatoes and offer your family and friends a variety of pizzette from the grill. It doesn’t get much easier than this folks, unless you’re ordering takeout. But this is sooo much better. Just slice up those pizzette and pour me a beer.

 

Looking for still more ideas? Then try this zucchini omelet. Recipe here.
Or for something completely different, pasta with zucchini and zucchini flowers. Recipe here:

 

Zucchini Blossom and Ricotta Frittata
two scallions, or 1/4 cup shallots or onions
1 T. olive oil
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
some dollops of ricotta cheese
zucchini blossoms, cleaned
a few cherry tomatoes
chopped chives, minced parsley
salt, pepper
1 T. olive oil, 1 pat of butter
Sauté the scallions in one tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Beat the eggs, milk and parmesan cheese together and add the chives and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to the skillet (preferably a cast iron skillet.) Over low to medium heat, pour the mixture into the skillet (9 or 10 inches). Let it cook for a couple of minutes until you start to see the edges firm up (very slightly). Arrange the blossoms in the skillet and surround with dollops of ricotta cheese. Place some cut cherry tomatoes around the skillet and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees fahrenheit. Remove when the eggs seem firm all around, or slightly earlier if you prefer a looser frittata.
Grilled Pizzette
Grilled zucchini pieces
roasted cherry tomatoes
zucchini blossoms
prosciutto slices
shredded mozzarella
pizza dough (purchased or homemade)
fresh tomatoes
Using purchased or homemade dough, let it rise slightly. (Honestly, it’s good even if it doesn’t rise much at all.) Make small rounds from the dough and place the rounds on a hot grill, one in which you’ve first oiled the grates. The dough will start to rise slightly. Lower the heat if it looks like it might burn. Keep a close watch and flip over when you see grill marks form on the bottom. Let the dough cook slightly on the second side (a couple of minutes) before adding toppings – first the mozzarella cheese, then other toppings, like zucchini and roasted cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, zucchini blossoms, etc. Close the lid on the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the pizzetta is nicely browned.
Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
for about six blossoms:
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt, pepper
a bit of minced parsley and thyme
small bits of zucchini sauteed in olive oil
for the batter:
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 t. salt
Mix the ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg, salt, pepper and small bits of cooked zucchini. Using a demitasse spoon, fill the washed and prepared blossoms carefully. Dip into the batter then into a skillet filled with hot oil. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until golden. Sprinkle with salt when the come out of the frying pan, to drain on paper towels.
Inspired By The Alban Hills

Inspired by the Alban Hills

This dish of orecchiette with pancetta, zucchini and zucchini blossoms was inspired by a lunch my son and I ate on our way from Abruzzo to Rome. We’d knew we’d be driving right through the Alban Hills, and a series of towns known as “Castelli Romani,” where one of my close friends, Clo, owned a home. Since her death two years ago, her son George and daughter Claire have now taken over running the place, called Casale Sonnino, which produces some of the best olive oil you’ll ever taste. They also open their 18th century villa to paying guests and it’s a great retreat for anyone who wants to be close to Rome, but away from the frenetic tourist masses.
How would you like to fling open the shutters in the morning and wake up to this view?
George treated my son and me to a wonderful lunch at a restaurant in the nearby town of Monte Porzio Catone. My son ordered this platter of penne with zucchini, zucchini blossoms and pancetta – loaded with cream and deliciousness.
I had been eating so much pasta at that point, I decided my waistline needed a break. I ordered the stuffed zucchini, a recipe very similar to one I posted on my blog last summer, only this dish used the long zucchini, while mine were the round variety.
As you can tell, zucchini recipes abound in restaurant menus right now all over Italy – and why not? They’re so easy to grow and vegetable gardens here and in Italy are bursting forth with enough zucchini to feed a small country.
When my friend Dorothy asked me to do a cooking demonstration for a weekly group she hosts called “The Suppers Program” – a group that helps people learn about good nutrition to combat mental and health issues of any sort – from diabetes, depression, obseity and alcohol abuse, for instance – I was happy to help her out and meet a lot of nice people too – people interested in improving their physical and mental health.
 Refined sugars and grains were taboo, Dorothy said, so I thought of a zucchini dish – stuffed zucchini two ways – filled with meat in this recipe:
and a vegetarian version filled with brown rice and cheese in this recipe.
A few nights later, I also made this quick pasta dish for myself using pancetta, zucchini and zucchini flowers. I omitted the cream that gave the dish I ate in Italy a luscious flavor and texture, but if you’ve been swimming your laps lately, feel free to indulge.

 



Pasta with Zucchini and Pancetta

Printable Recipe Here

For two people:

1/2 pound pasta
6 ounces pancetta, sliced into bits
1 medium zucchini or 2 small zucchini, sliced
10-12 zucchini flowers, sliced into bits (make sure you check for visitors)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
salt, pepper to taste
pasta water
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Saute the pancetta in a saucepan. You may need to add a little oil, but not much since the pancetta gives off a lot of fat when it starts to cook. Before the pancetta is completely cooked, add the olive oil, onions and sliced zucchini and saute, seasoning with salt and pepper. Let everything cook for a few minutes, then add the minced garlic and cook for a few minutes more.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain it directly into the pan with the zucchini, adding some of the pasta water to make a loose sauce. If you want to add cream here, you could slowly add about 1/2 cup.
Stir everything together until it’s all amalgamated nicely, then turn off the heat and add about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Stir in the zucchini blossoms and serve at once, with more parmesan cheese.