Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Chickpea Salad.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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…
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!
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!
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This absolutely didn’t work with 1/4in zucchini. Not only did they break instead of roll, they weren’t cooked through where they overlapped. Because it was so thick, not enough water came out during the time they were salted and it was like soup in the bottom of the pan. I wish I’d read the comments before making this so that I could have drained more water out and sliced thinner before making. I’m super disappointed to have spent all this time and all of the zucchini from our garden to have something unattractive and unevenly cooked.
Thanks for giving this recipe a try and sharing your feedback, so sorry to hear it was not enjoyed. Please let me know if I can help in anyway! xT
Good but not great! I used my mandolin to slice the zucchini and salted prior to rolling – I would say they were closer to 1/8″ strips and were still a challenge to roll. If I make again I think it may help to blanch the zucchini briefly to soften and make it more pliable.
Sounds like this is the biggest challenge of the recipe 🙂
Thanks so much for making this recipe and sharing your feedback, so sorry to hear you didn’t love it! xTieghan
I made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. I’ve been trying to avoid pasta and this is an awesome substitute. For those reviews that said the zucchini wouldn’t roll, definitely add the salt, after I let that sit for a while the zucchini rolled up no problem.
I appreciate you making this recipe and sharing your review, I am so glad it was enjoyed! Have a great day:)
Great flavors! I don’t know if I had super tough zucchini or what but when I sliced it 1/4 inch thick with my mandolin I was unable to roll it up without it breaking. I ended up making more of a lasagna-type dish and made everything in layers, but it was still delicious! Now I know for next time to slice it thinner 🙂
Amazing!! I am thrilled that this dish was a hit, thanks a lot for trying it out! Sorry about the zucchini, definitely just slice it thinner next time:) xTieghan
My family including my 6 yr old enjoyed this. I made it veg by leaving out the meat. I forgot to salt the zucchini and it didn’t turn out watery. I used a peeler to cut the zucchini and had a hard time toward the end cutting so thinly but chopped up that part and sautéed it and threw it into the ricotta mixture. Delicious low carb, vegetarian option that looks beautiful too.
Happy Friday!! I am thrilled that this recipe was a hit, thanks a bunch for trying it out! ☀️xxT
I really loved this one! We’re vegetarian, so we did beyond Italian sausage instead of chicken, and we found it to be so flavorful. I was nervous we weren’t going to have enough sauce after watching it cook down, but it was fine. Seriously one of the most delicious dinners we’ve had in a long time. The only thing that confused me is the serving 6 – with two zucchini, we got 21 good slices. Maybe our zucchini was just too small, but if you’re feeding a larger group, I would suggest getting a third zucchini. Ours served four people with a side salad, though, and it was delicious!
I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks so much for making it and sharing your review! Sorry about the serving size!! xTieghan
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!
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
We substituted eggplant for the chicken and the whole family loved it ?
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
Thanks so much Martin!
Wonderful! I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed and I appreciate you giving it a try! xTieghan
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! 🙂
Wonderful! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a try, I am so glad it was enjoyed! xTieghan
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! ?
Happy Sunday! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a go, I am so excited that it was enjoyed! xxTieghan
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!!
Thanks a lot for giving the recipe a go, I am so delighted that it was enjoyed! Have a great week:) xTieghan
do you rinse the salt off? sounds like you would end up with a very salty dish.
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
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!
Wow yes!! So happy this turned out so well for you, Nina! Thank you! xTieghan
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.
Hi Helen! I am really sorry this did not turn out well for you! Is there anything I can help with? xTieghan
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!
Thank you so much Jessica! xTieghan