Recipe: Spinach & zucchini ricotta cake

Perfect for the picnic basket, or fresh and warm for lunch, this savoury cake will keep everyone happy.
Steve Brown

Perfect for the picnic basket, or fresh and warm for lunch, this savoury cake will keep everyone happy.

When the sun is shining and you have a couple of hours up your sleeve, it's hard to beat a leisurely picnic. Forget the soggy sandwiches and boring biscuits – with a bit of prep, you can fill your picnic basket with flavour-packed, travel-friendly treats.

This vege-packed ricotta cake is quick, easy and delicious, either warm from the oven or at room temperature, served with a tasty tomato and eggplant sauce and crusty bread. Follow it up with a dainty custard and blackcurrant tart and you have picnic perfection. 

Serves 4
Preparation 10 minutes / Cooking 30 minutes

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
150g baby spinach leaves

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1 zucchini, coarsely grated
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
600g ricotta
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup (60g) finely grated parmesan
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, made by blitzing day-old ciabatta or sourdough to coarse crumbs in a food processor
1 bunch chives, finely chopped (3 tablespoons)
1 cup coarsely chopped parsley
½ cup basil leaves, plus extra to garnish
1 large eggplant, cut into 1cm pieces
1kg tomatoes, halved, coarsely grated, or use 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
crusty bread to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200°C and lightly grease an 18cm cake tin. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, zucchini and half the garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring, until the spinach has wilted. Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a sieve sitting in a bowl. Drain and squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the ricotta and eggs in a large bowl until smooth. Add ½ cup of the parmesan, the breadcrumbs, chives, parsley, basil and spinach mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the mixture to the cake tin and scatter with the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and set.

Heat the remaining olive oil in the same frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant for 3 minutes, stirring, until lightly golden. Season with salt and reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining garlic, the tomato pulp and caster sugar and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Cut the ricotta cake into wedges, serve with the tomato and eggplant sauce and garnish with basil. Serve with crusty bread, if desired.

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