Zucchini is one of those vegetables that I really love. I’m always surprised when I think about this though because zucchini must be one of the most plain vegetables around. Don’t you agree? So, why then do I love it so much? Well, I think because it takes on different flavors so well. When cooked properly, zucchini can add texture, color and nutrition to different dishes, and hold up well to a variety of cooking techniques, from zoodles to fritters or simply seared in a hot pan. So, yeah, I guess there are a lot of reasons to love the little squashies! To prove my point, check out this recipe for cheesy baked zucchini balls.
Oddly, this recipe reminds me of a few different favorite foods of mine. From fritters that would be pan-fried until crispy, to meatballs that would, well, have meat in them, these little craveable treats offer a bit healthier of a compromise. A compromise I’m quite happy with!
After grating the zucchini, the most important step is to squeeze or press out as much moisture from the zucchini as possible. When you rid the zucchini of that buggersome moisture, it can take on other flavors more readily. This also helps the balls bake up crispy. My favorite method is to grate the zucchini then layer it in between sheets of paper towel and rest a heavy cast iron skillet on top for about 10 minutes. Depending on the zucchini, it might require a swap out of fresh paper towel and another 5 minute rest before proceeding.
From there, the remaining ingredients are easily mixed in – mozzarella cheese, cream cheese, an egg, panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper – such easy ingredients, in fact, you are quite likely to have them on hand already!
Once the mixture is all combined, I use a mini ice cream scoop to plop 16 balls out onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Then, I bake the balls at 400 degrees for nearly 30 minutes, until they are beautifully golden brown and delightfully crispy on the outside while cheesy on the inside. Yum and done!
One more tip? Toss the balls in the freezer after baking, then warm in a 400 degree oven on a later date. Food that tastes good and is convenient, too!
While these baked goodies are tasty all on their own, I happen to love a good dipping sauce for fun foods just like these. Which is why, for an added bonus, I’ve include my recipe for sun-dried tomato dipping sauce, too. You know, if you’re feeling so inclined!
A fun recipe for turning simple zucchini into a cheesy, exciting vegetarian party bite or dinner side dish.
3 cups grated zucchini, about 1 pound
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cups panko breadcrumbs
OPTIONAL – Sun-Dried Tomato Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup milk
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup Mayonnaise
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
Grate the zucchini, arrange in a thin layer on a plate lined with paper towels. Layer paper towels on top, then set something heavy on top, like a cast iron skillet. Let it rest for 10 minutes to draw out excess moisture.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, mozzarella, cream cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt and black pepper.
After about 10 minutes, check the zucchini. If it still seems damp, change out the paper towels and let rest another 5 minutes. Once zucchini seems fairly dry, fold it into the egg mixture along with the panko breadcrumbs. Mix well.
Use a small ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon to portion the mixture into balls. Set on the prepared sheet tray. Should make about 16 balls.
Bake zucchini balls until cooked through and golden brown and crisp on the outside, about 25-30 minutes.
In the meantime, blend the sauce ingredients together in a food processor. Start with the milk, garlic clove and sun-dried tomatoes. Process together until finely chopped. Add spices and mayonnaise then blend again until sauce is fairly smooth. For a thinner sauce, add a little more milk. Transfer to a small serving dish.
Transfer baked zucchini balls to a serving dish and serve with sun-dried tomato sauce on the side.
* Nutritional data does not include the sun-dried tomato dipping sauce.