This zucchini involtini is made in just one skillet and makes the perfect quick, easy, and healthy weeknight meal. Creamy ricotta is rolled up in thin ribbons of zucchini and baked inside a pan of warm tomato sauce and topped with fresh grated cheese for the best lightened up Italian dish.
What is Zucchini Involtini?
Involtini is a traditional Italian dish typically made with eggplant rolled up with some type of cheesy mixture inside. Yum!
You can really use anything to roll up a mixture of any sorts and call it "involtini". With is being prime zucchini season here in the US, I thought...yes, thin slices of zucchini wrapped around a spoonful of creamy herby ricotta is a must! It's kind of like a lasagna roll up situation but so easy to make and lightened up.
It's fun, simple, and easily customizable!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Zucchini - Choose the long straight zucchini at the store and make sure to wash and dry them before slicing them into ribbons. You can also use yellow squash.
- Ricotta cheese - Used in the filling inside the zucchini rolls. Whole milk or skim milk ricotta will work or a dairy free ricotta like almond milk ricotta.
- Ground turkey - This is used in the marinara sauce and is completely optional. Ground chicken or beef will also work. If you want to make this vegan, feel free to omit the meat or use a plant based ground meat.
- Olive oil - Any type of oil will work like avocado oil.
Step by step directions
All you need to make this easy recipe is a large oven-safe skillet or baking dish, a y-shaped peeler or sharp knife to slice the zucchini, and a bowl to mix the ricotta cheese mixture.
Step 1 : Heat up the red sauce. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic and onions. Cook until the onions turn translucent and then add in the ground meat (if using) and Italian seasonings. Brown the meat until it's just slightly pink and then pour in the marinara sauce and stir to distribute.
Turn the element down to low and let the sauce simmer while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Step 2 : Slice the zucchini into ribbons. First use a sharp knife to cut the end and top off the zucchini so it can easily stand up straight. Use a y-shaped peeler to slice very thin ribbons from the zucchini by peeling along the long side. You can discard the first few slices as they will primarily be just the skin of the zucchini or you can chop them up and throw them into the red sauce skillet.
The best zucchini ribbons will be the ones once you get towards the center of the fruit (yes, zucchini is a fruit) and will be long and about 2-3 inches across.
Step 3 : Roll up the zucchini. In a small bowl, quickly stir together the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and oregano.
Then spoon about a tablespoon of the cheese onto the ends of a zucchini ribbon laying on a flat surface. Use your hands to gently roll up the cheese into the zucchini. This doesn't have to be super tight but you do want the cheese to be secure inside the zucchini. Repeat this process with the remaining ricotta (you should get about 15 - 20 roll ups)
Step 4 : Place the zucchini roll ups into the sauce. Use a spoon or your spatula to create little holes in the red sauce and place a roll up into each throughout the skillet or baking dish. It's okay if some are touching each other.
Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over top of the dish and bake it in the oven until the zucchini are slightly crispy and have turned a golden color on top. I like to crank the oven up to a broil for 1 - 2 minutes to get a slight char on the zucchini before pulling out the dish.
How to Serve
Serve the zucchini involtini warm right out of the oven. Contrary to lasagna, you don't need to let the dish set because the ricotta is wrapped up will inside the zucchini. Use a large serving spoon to scoop the sauce and a few zucchini roll ups into bowls to serve.
I like to serve this with a side of toasted bread or my goat cheese muffins. A simple side salad would also be something light to serve alongside the dish.
This dish is easily customizable! Here are a few ways to switch things up:
- Add more vegetables to the red sauce. You could throw in some mushrooms or spinach in with the onions and garlic to bulk up the sauce.
- Use a plant based ground meat (or skip the meat) and ricotta to make this completely vegan and dairy free.
- Add some hot peppers to the skillet when cooking the onions and garlic to add some heat.
- Use your favorite spinach and artichoke dip to roll up inside the zucchini instead of ricotta.
How to Store
If you have left overs, either put aluminum foil over the entire skillet if there is a good bit left over or transfer the food to an airtight container. Store in the fridge for 1 - 2 days. When ready to enjoy, heat the skillet on the stove to warm everything up or transfer the food to a skillet and heat over medium heat until the red sauce begins to simmer and the zucchini is warm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes but you will want to roast the zucchini to soften up the slices which makes them easier to roll up. Cut the top and bottom of the zucchini and thinly slice along the long edge of the zucchini to create the ribbons. Toss them with a little olive oil and salt and roast the zucchini slices in the oven on a baking sheet at 400 for 5 - 7 minutes until soft. Allow them to cool slightly before rolling them up with the ricotta.
You can use a square or circular 8 inch baking dish instead of an skillet for this recipe.
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- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove - minced
- ¼ cup white onion - diced
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 cups marinara sauce - or tomato sauce
- 2 - 3 zucchini
- ½ cup ricotta cheese - use dairy-free if needed
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice - approx. ½ lemon
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- parmesan cheese to top - optional
- In a large oven safe skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat with the garlic and onion. Cook until the onions become soft and translucent.
- Add in the ground turkey and Italian seasoning and brown the meat until it’s still slightly pink in color. Pour the marinara into the skillet and mix to distribute. Turn the heat down to low and allow the sauce to simmer while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice the top and bottom off the zucchini so they can stand up right on a flat surface. Use a y-shaped peeler to slice thin slices of zucchini by running the peeler down the long side of the zucchini. You can dispose of the first few slices as they will be primarily skin or you can chop them up and throw them in the skiller with the marinara sauce. The best zucchini ribbons will be towards the center of the zucchini and be long and 2 - 3 inches across. Slice up the zucchini until you get 15 - 24 good zucchini ribbons.
- In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta with the lemon juice and oregano. Lay a zucchini ribbon down flat on a surface and spoon about a tablespoon of the ricotta onto the end. Use your hands to gently roll up the zucchini. Repeat with the remaining zucchini until you’re out of ricotta.
- If using a separate baking dish, go ahead and pour the marinara sauce into a square or circular baking dish. Create little holes in the marinara sauce with a spoon or spatula and place each zucchini roll up into each, seam side down. Scatter the roll ups around the pan but it’s okay if some are touching or overlapping. Grate some fresh parmesan cheese over top if desired and bake the dish in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until the zucchini are toasted. I like to crank the oven up to a broil for 1 - 2 minutes at the end to get a slight char on the zucchini. Serve the dish while warm with a serving spoon and enjoy!