Roasted Zucchini + Soba Noodle Summer Rolls {Vegan + Gluten-Free}

I spent my junior year of college in Bologna, Italy. Though I was ostensibly there to study art history, I hoped my studies might extend to making fresh pasta, gelato, and maybe even wine.

Though I consumed plenty of the above, the only two things I learned to cook were spaghetti from a box topped with a can of oil-packed tuna (which is actually surprisingly good) and fresh spring rolls, which I’ve also seen called summer rolls, presumably for their cooling, salad-like fillings. My chain-smoking Italian housemates, Deborah, Christiana, and Luisa, were responsible for the former, while my friend Christine, a fellow exchange student from California, taught me how to soften the rice-based wrapper in warm water, and fill and roll the little guys.

I thought of Christine as I rolled these up a few days ago. I hadn’t made summer rolls in about 10 years, but Phi’s recent post had them on my mind. Hers are a work of art and I hope she’ll make me her beautiful version someday (hint, hint). I decided to fill mine with soba noodles and zucchini, and to dip them in the same creamy almond butter-tahini sauce I use for soba salads.

I came home from the co-op with a huge bag of zucchini and revealed my plan to Jay. He eyed the zucchini suspiciously. “You’re gonna cook those, right?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “maybe I’ll just marinate them.”

He proceeded to make gagging gestures, saying something along the lines of, “Raw zucchini – blech!”

So I doused the spears in olive oil and stuck them in a hot oven until their outsides were caramelized and their innards soft yet firm. I rolled them up in brown rice wrappers with soba noodles, ribbons of carrot, slivered scallions, seasoned tofu, and herbs. Wrapped in damp paper towels, they kept in the fridge for a couple of days and rewarded us with instant lunches.

Then last Friday we attended Kimberly’s launch party for her book Vibrant Food where we were served zucchini noodles (which Erin informed us are sometimes referred to as “zoodles”) tossed with green goddess dressing. We all agreed that while the term “zoodle” was a no-no, the dish itself was positively sublime.

“You can make zoodles anytime,” Jay said, helping himself to a second plate. Zoodles, of course, consist solely of raw zucchini.

These rolls take a bit of doing, but making them is a process that I find wholly enjoyable when I have the time for a leisurely kitchen project, and the resulting rolls feel so pretty and special. Soba noodles are cooked and rinsed under cool water, then tossed with a few drops of oil to prevent stickage. Zucchini are roasted and cooled. Carrots are ribboned and tossed with rice vinegar, scallions are slivered, herbs are stemmed and washed. Rice paper wrappers are softened in warm water and layered with ingredients. Rolls are rolled. Sauce is made.

If you have a kitchen assistant, employ them to help.

Rolls are eaten! (Best part.) Serve these at a cocktail party and people will look at you as though you are magical.

This recipe isn’t set in stone, so feel free to use whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand. Snap peas, cucumber, bell pepper, and radish would all be good.

Heck, I may even try these with zoodles next time.

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Summery salads:

Farro and Cucumber Salad with Feta and Mint
Strawberry Caprese Salad
Creamy Sesame Soba Noodle Salad

One year ago:

Roasted Vegetable Sopa Azteca

Two years ago:

Sweet Corn Cheddar Spoon Bread

Roasted Zucchini+ Soba Noodle Summer Rolls {Vegan + Gluten-Free}

Select smaller zucchini for these rolls, which will have maximum flavor and minimum water content. Feel free to play fast and loose with the filling, adding cucumber, radish, snap peas, thai basil, shiso, mushrooms, or sweet peppers as you see fit. I used 100% buckwheat soba for their gluten-free-ness, but the hybrid guys made with wheat tend to hold together better when cooked. I used these organic brown rice spring roll wrappers from Happy Pho which contain green tea, but any wrappers will work beautifully. I found that 25 seconds submerged in warm water prior to rolling softened these just the right amount (yes, I timed it). White rice wrappers will probably soften up more quickly, however, so go with the package instructions.

These rolls are best eaten shortly after rolling when the wrapper is moist and pliant, but they’ll keep airtight and covered in damp paper towels in the fridge for a day or two. You can spritz the rolls with water if they become dry or tough.

As for the sauce, be sure to stir your jars of almond butter and tahini prior to measuring as the oil likes to separate and float to the top. You can substitute both with peanut butter if you like.

Makes about 12 rolls, serving 12 as an appetizer

For the zucchini:
6 medium zucchini (about 1 3/4 pounds / 800 grams)
2-3 tablespoons light olive oil (or other cooking oil)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the noodles:
7-8 ounces soba noodles (100% buckwheat if you want the rolls to be gluten-free)
1 tablespoon light olive oil

For finishing the rolls:
4 medium carrots, scrubbed
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
leaves from 1/2 a bunch of mint
leaves from 1/2 a bunch of cilantro (soft stems ok)
4 scallions
8 ounces seasoned, firm or extra-firm tofu (preferably smoked or braised)
12-16 brown rice (or other) spring roll wrappers (plus extras to allow for breakage)

For the dipping sauce:
1/4 cup smooth almond butter
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1″ knob of fresh ginger, finely grated on a microplane to equal 2 teaspoons
4 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4 cup rice vinegar, or more to taste

Cook the zucchini:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425ºF.

Halve the zucchini crosswise, then cut them into 1/2″ thick spears. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to coat, then spread them into a single layer. Roast the zucchini until golden on the first side, about 10 minutes, then rotate and cook on a second side until golden and tender but still firm, 5-10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Cook the noodles:
Bring a large saucepan filled with lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until tender (see the package for cooking time). Drain and rinse well with cool water, then toss with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.

Prepare the fillings:
Peel the scrubbed carrots into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Place in a medium bowl and toss with the rice vinegar. Set aside.

Place the cilantro and mint leaves in a bowl.

Rinse the scallions well, trim, cut them crosswise into 4″ lengths, then into long slivers and place in a small bowl.

Cut the tofu into pieces roughly the size of the zucchini spears and place in a bowl.

Assemble the rolls:
Fill a very large bowl with warm water. Have the wrappers and ingredients nearby, as well as a large plate or cutting board to shape the rolls on, and a platter on which to place the finished rolls.

Submerge a wrapper in the warm water and hold it there until it has softened a bit but still holds its shape. (My brown rice wrappers liked exactly 25 seconds, but white rice or tapioca wrappers usually take only 5 seconds or so. It may take a few tries to get the timing right.) Lay the wrapper on the plate or cutting board. On the lower third of the wrapper, place a small handful of noodles, 2-3 pieces of tofu, 2-3 zucchini spears, a few carrot ribbons, several slivered scallions and a generous handful of herbs.

Grasp the bottom of the wrapper with your thumbs and forefingers and cup the filling with your other six fingers to fold the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling. (It may take a bit of practice to get the right amount of pressure so that the wrapper doesn’t tear but the filling is pressed tightly enough to hold together when the rolls are cut.) Fold the sides of the wrapper in toward the center, then roll the roll the rest of the way. (For pretty rolls, you can place a few herb leaves on the wrapper before making the final fold.)

Assemble the remaining rolls, covering the finished ones with damp paper towels or a clean, damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out. (Or store them airtight covered in damp paper towels and chill for 1-2 days.)

Make the dipping sauce:
In a large bowl, whisk together the almond butter, tahini, tamari, sesame oil, ginger, maple syrup, and vinegar until smooth. Taste, adding more vinegar or ginger if you want the flavors a little sharper, more almond butter if you want it thicker, or a few drops of water if the mixture is too thick. The dressing will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

To serve the rolls, cut them in half on the diagonal and arrange them on a platter with the dipping sauce. Eat!

39 thoughts on “Roasted Zucchini + Soba Noodle Summer Rolls {Vegan + Gluten-Free}”

  1. Summer rolls are the best, especially with a really good peanut sauce! I've never thought to use soba noodles in mine for some reason–must try that very soon.

  2. I've never tried summer rolls before, and I'm pretty sure I'm missing out! They look great, and I love the idea of having a bunch of them in the fridge for quick and easy lunches!

  3. What can I say? I am a huge fan of Summer roll and your blog, so when you combine both of them, I have to be here to "eat them all up" (virtually) heehee

    Love love love the recipe & your photographs, Alanna.

    Btw, I can almost picture Jay's face when he thought he would be eating raw zucchini… It is probably the same as my hubby's … hahaha

  4. I have to know where you get your gluten-free soba noodles. The only ones I can find are half buckwheat and half whole wheat flour and it's infuriating! Maybe I'll just use "zoodles" (The worst word), now that I finally have a spiralizer.

    1. Hi Nora, I found mine at Rainbow grocery co-op in San Francisco. You might check at Whole Foods or another healthy foodie store. But zoodles would be fun, too! You'll have to let me know how they come out if you give them a go.

    2. I know I'm really late to the comment party here, but I just found Buckwheat and Sweet Potato Soba Noodles at Harris Teeter in Nashville. I'm trying these rolls next week with those noodles.

  5. As soon as I saw these I thought of 'zoodles'. My kids despise zucchini in every form, raw or cooked, except for as noodles. I'm a confirmed soba fan though, I never thought of putting soba in a summer roll.

  6. Zoodles! You learn something new every day.

    Gorgeous photos as always! They're so inviting. They make me want to hang out in your kitchen all day, leisurely wrapping rolls (and probably snacking on the fillings, not gonna lie).

  7. I made this for lunch today and it was divine. thankyou for the recipe!
    who knew that roasted zucchini was going to taste so amazing, loved it. in fact it took all my willpower not to just eat all of the zucchini, it almost didn't make it into the rolls!
    jen x

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