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This Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini is best for nights when you’re craving Italian, but you’re also wanting to keep things healthy..ish and summery. Summer zucchini is sliced into ribbons and rolled up with a basil pesto and ricotta cheese mixture. Then baked in a spicy, herby, tomato sauce that’s creamy and so delicious! This is a great way to use summer produce. It’s also easy enough to serve any night of the week…or for your next Saturday night dinner party.

Overhead photo of Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini with spoon in skillet

I’ve always enjoyed zucchini, but I know it can also get a bit boring at times too. Especially during these August days when you have so much on hand. Sometimes you just can’t eat any more raw zucchini salads or zucchini off the grill. I get it, it can get old. But the fun thing about zucchini is that you can really do so much with it. You just have to get a little creative.

Enter this zucchini Involtini. It’s basically cheesy zucchini baked in tomato sauce, and it is DELICIOUS. I’ve decided the easiest way to take zucchini from boring to insanely good is to just add cheese and pesto. Probably the case with most vegetables, right? Cheese especially can be a game-changer.

Anyway, the real inspiration for this recipe starts with the mass amounts of basil I have in the garden (greenhouse). The herb garden is inspiring a lot of recipes this month (like tomorrow’s recipe). It’s overflowing with fresh herbs, tomatoes, and peppers. I’m loving having all of my favorite herbs at my fingertips. I just have to use them up. It’s actually kind of nice having SO many herbs. It really forces me to test out new ways to use them and put my “thinking cap” on.

Kind of fun!

overhead photo of Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini before baking

Traditionally, Involtini is an Italian dish made using sliced and grilled eggplant. I’m not the biggest fan of eggplant, so I’ve always steered clear of making Involtini. I was brainstorming recipes when I thought about swapping the eggplant with zucchini.

Done and done.

I got to work testing out this recipe. I knew after the very first round of testing that this was going to be a recipe worth sharing.

This zucchini Involtini is SO GOOD.

overhead photo of Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini after baking in skillet

overhead photo of Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini with spoon remove zucchini from baking dish

Here are the details.

This recipe requires a little prep work, but it’s all easy and pretty fun too.

First, make the tomato sauce. I kept this very simple, using canned tomatoes, fresh oregano, and thyme. I did add a special ingredient, spicy Italian chicken sausage.

Of course, if you’re vegetarian or just going for a meatless Monday theme, you can easily omit the sausage from the sauce. I’d recommend adding some fresh garlic and a touch more crushed red pepper flakes. This will keep the sauce flavorful and on the spicy side.

With or without the sausage it’s going to be great, so do what works for you!

overhead close up photo of Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini with spoon in baking dish

While the sauce is simmering away, get to work on the zucchini.

Start out by slicing the zucchini into thin ribbons. I find this easiest to do with a mandoline, but you can use a knife as well. You’ll want to lay the zucchini flat, sprinkle it with salt, and let it sit a few minutes. Doing this will draw out any excess water and make the zucchini ribbons pliable for rolling.

Then just mix fresh ricotta cheese with some fontina and basil pesto. Add the cheese to the zucchini, tuck, and roll! It looks all fancy, but it’s actually the easiest to do.

At this point, place the zucchini rolls into the tomato sauce, top with mozzarella, and bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce all bubbly…

overhead photo of Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini on serving plates

Your kitchen will smell incredible…like an Italian grandma’s kitchen, so perfect.

If I could best describe this dish, it’s kind of like stuffed pasta shells, but minus the pasta. Maybe not the best description, but trust me, this zucchini is truly mouth-watering.

You guys know me, I’m usually all about the pasta. But this cheesy zucchini is surprisingly filling and layered with great flavor and texture! This is a new summer dinner favorite for sure. But then you really can’t go wrong with zucchini filled with cheese and pesto in a flavorful tomato sauce. It’s perfection.

If you have fresh zucchini, this is what you should be making…well, either this or my chocolate chunk zucchini bread. Actually, you should just make both. Hey, it’s August, zucchini every day, all day!

side angled photo of Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini on a plate with fork in a zucchini to reveal the cheese inside

If you make this Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Watch The How To Video:

Spicy Pesto and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Involtini

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings: 6

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

Instructions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish or dish of similar size.
    2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken sausage and brown all over, about 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the bell pepper, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
    3. Meanwhile, using a mandolin or vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini into 1/4 inch wide strips and lay them flat on a paper towel lined counter. You should have around 30 strips. Sprinkle the zucchini with salt. 
    4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, fontina, and 1/2 cup pesto. 
    5. To assemble, spoon 3/4 of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Grab 2 zucchini ribbons and lay them side by side lengthwise. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the center of the zucchini. Roll into a coil and place each seam-side down in the dish as you go. Repeat with remaining zucchini. Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over top of the zucchini and then drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup pesto evenly over everything. Add the mozzarella.
    6. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned on top. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh basil and thyme. Enjoy!

Notes

Vegetarian Option: If you'd like to make this vegetarian, no problem, just omit the chicken sausage and use a little more crushed red pepper flakes for heat, if you'd like.
To Make Ahead: Do everything up until the final baking. Cool, and store in the fridge for up to 12 hours. Bake as directed. If there is any excess water on the surface of the sauce, drain this off or blot with a paper towel before baking.
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Comments

  1. 1 star
    i was very disappointed in the instructions. It says cut into 1/4 inch wide strips. you cannot ROLL 1/4 inch slices. it should have said 1/8 inch thick slices. i had to fold the zucchini and it is taking almost an hour to soften them. I am unhappy!

    1. Hey Mary,
      So sorry you had issues with the recipe. I used 1/4 inch thick zucchini, but if you need to go thinner you can always adjust the recipe to your liking:) xTieghan

    1. I think there was a glitch in the star rating, I gave it a five star and it only showed up as four. It was very flavorful and

    2. Hey Martin,
      Wonderful! I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed and I appreciate you giving it a try! xTieghan

  2. This was really good. My 7 yr old was watching me make it and said, “this is going to be the worst dinner I’ve ever had!”, ended up clearing her plate! 🙂

    1. Hey Tracy,
      Wonderful! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a try, I am so glad it was enjoyed! xTieghan

  3. 4 stars
    I loved this dish. I’m sorry, but if you don’t feel this has flavor, either you’d might have a cold or haven’t seasoned (and tasted) properly.
    I winged it a bit as I couldn’t find the kind of sausage. I made small meatballs out of 50/50 minced pork and veal and seasoned with loads garlic, oregano and dried chili. I served with crusty bread and my husbond loved it as much as I. A perfect veggie-recipe for my vegetarian girlfriend (removing the meatballs, of course). Thanks, this was a save! 😁

    1. Hey Julie,
      Happy Sunday! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a go, I am so excited that it was enjoyed! xxTieghan

  4. 4 stars
    Don’t try to make this without a mandolin. I have good knife skills but it’s impossible to get everything uniform and thin enough to be able to roll. Half of mine didn’t roll properly and cracked because they were too thick. Still tasted amazing though!!

    1. Hey Lala,
      Thanks a lot for giving the recipe a go, I am so delighted that it was enjoyed! Have a great week:) xTieghan

    1. Hey Kathy,
      No you do not rinse the salt off, it draws all of the water out of the zucchini so your dish is not liquidy. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions. Happy Holidays! xTieghan

  5. I made this recipe for the first time last week and it was absolutely DELICIOUS!! My family couldn’t stop raving about it. I have since purchased a mandolin because my knife skills with cutting zucchini’s weren’t the best. Making it again tonight and this will long be a staple in our family dinners. Thanks so much!

  6. 2 stars
    Very bland and disappointing! This recipe needs work: I suggest a little chipotle pepper might help, as well as some garlic. Use fresh herbs not dried. I’ve decided not to keep the recipe.

  7. 5 stars
    I switched out the spicy Italian chicken sausage for Italian pork sausage (I couldn’t find the chicken sausage at the store) and it’s a hit. Another great recipe!