This Zucchini Involtini with an herbaceous creamy ricotta filling is baked in a flavourful marinara sauce to make a simple and satisfying vegetarian dish that everyone falls in love with.
Not surprisingly, I am still getting requests for zucchini recipes! Whether you have an endless supply of zucchini in your backyard or not, this zucchini involtini is one you should really set your attention to. I trust wherever you live the evenings are getting a little more comfortable so you won’t mind the bit of oven time. So worth it.
The main ingredients for this dish — zucchini, ricotta, tomato sauce, and parmesan cheese — make it taste like an Italian summer holiday. It can be a light meal, or part of a summery spread. I like to grab the whole pan, a large crusty baguette, a bottle of chilled rosé, take it all outside and dig in. Simple. Delizioso.
What Is Involtini
The Italian word involto describes a filling that is stuffed into a wrap and then rolled. Involtini refers to smaller, bite-sized parcels of these wraps. The wrap can be made from vegetables, fish, or meat, that has been thinly sliced. Veal is a popular wrap used for involtini in Italy, as is fried eggplant.
Like the outside wrapper, variations for involtini fillings are endless, a cheese-based being the most popular. For this involtini recipe, we are using a classic ricotta filling with thin zucchini slices as the wrapper. The zucchini slices are brushed with olive oil, then grilled for a little smoky-sweetness until soft and pliable.
A flavourful filling is made by combining creamy ricotta, parmesan cheese, various chopped fresh herbs, lemon juice for a little freshness, and salt and pepper. The grilled zucchini slices are then stuffed and rolled with the cheesy, herby mixture and baked in a simple marinara sauce. About 20 minutes later, the delightful little bundles emerge tender, saucy, cheesy, and slightly charred. Truly gorgeous, and so delicious.
If you don’t have access to an outdoor grill, or would rather roast the zucchini slices, that works perfectly fine too. You can find instructions for the roasting method in the recipe notes.
Ingredients You Will Need
For a dish that is so rich and complex in flavour, the ingredients are pleasantly few and straightforward.
Here’s what you need to make it:
- Zucchini – For this zucchini involtini recipe, you will need around 3 medium/large zucchini to make this recipe. Green or yellow zucchini will work. See section below for more tips on which zucchini to buy and how to prepare it.
- Olive oil – For both the zucchini and the sauce (if making your own tomato sauce).
- Marinara sauce – You can make a simple tomato sauce (recipe included in recipe card) or you can use a good-quality jarred sauce. I really enjoy this one. It is a bit expensive but has clean ingredients and tastes delicious. Tip: Costco in Ontario (finally!) carries a very affordable double pack.
- Ricotta cheese – Use whole milk ricotta (not light) for the best flavour and texture.
- Parmesan cheesse – Here it goes in the ricotta mixture and for sprinkling over the finished dish.
- Lemon juice – Optional, but fresh lemon juice adds a little brightness to the rich dish.
- Chopped fresh herbs – I like mostly fresh basil in the ricotta mixture but a little chopped rosemary and parsley also add great flavour. Use a mix or any of your favourite.
- Kosher salt and pepper – To season the ricotta mixture and the zucchini once it has been grilled.
- Red pepper flakes – Optional but I like the tiny bit of heat it adds to the dish.
Best Zucchini To Buy and How To Prepare It For Involtini
To buy zucchini:
To make zucchini involtini, it is important to choose the right shape and size of zucchini. You don’t want massive ones that are unmanageable and hold a lot of moisture. But you don’t want zucchini that are too short and narrow which will make filling them impossible.
For this recipe you will need 3 zucchini so look for ones that are similar in size. They should be on the longer side, at least 8 to 10 inches long, and weigh about 10 ounces.
To cut zucchini:
As already mentioned, the zucchini needs to be thinly sliced lengthwise to make involtini. They need to be thin enough to roll easily, but not too thin that they will tear. I find the perfect thickness to be around 1/4″ or just a little under that. If you have a really good mandolin, and aren’t afraid to use it (use a guard!) it might make the job easier.
A sharp knife, however, works just as well. In fact, I find it works better than a mandolin which sometimes breaks the zucchini slice in half. If using a knife, cut both ends off the zucchini, stand them up on one end and slice downward making 1/4-inch slices.
Pro Tip: Buy a few extra zucchini in case you mess up a few of the slices.
A Make Ahead Recipe
I consider this a very simple dish to throw together that is fabulous for entertaining. There is very little cooking involved and a lot of shortcuts can be taken. (A favourite jarred sauce is totally fine to use here). That said, rolling the parcels can be a little time consuming. Particularly if you’re making a large batch.
Luckily, you can make the entire dish ahead of time, place it in the fridge up to one day ahead, then simply bake it right before serving. You can also freeze the entire unbaked dish, wrapped tightly, for up to 3 months.
Tip: To prevent the zucchini bundles from becoming soggy, transfer to a preheated oven straight from the fridge or freezer. You may need to add 5 to 10 minutes to the cold dish, and 15 to 20 minutes to a frozen one.
Step by Step How-To
*Note: The full printable recipe card is at the bottom of this post.
Prepare marinara sauce:
- Place a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 large, smashed garlic cloves. Stir garlic until fragrant and slightly brown, about 1 minute. Remove and discard the cloves.
- Add 1 can crushed tomatoes to the pan, salt, and pepper and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally while you prepare the involtini.
- Alternatively, feel free to use your favourite jarred, or homemade marinara sauce.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, chopped herbs, salt, and pepper. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if necessary. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Prepare and grill zucchini:
- Slice 3 medium/large zucchini in 1/4″ slices. You can use a mandolin or sharp knife to do this. Lightly brush the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and ground pepper.
- Grill for a few minutes a side, or until soft and light char marks appear. Transfer grilled zucchini to a large platter or sheet pan.
Assemble and bake involtini:
- Place 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on the wider end of the zucchini.
- Roll the eggplant around the ricotta mixture, ending with the seam underneath. Nestle the rolled bundles into the tomato sauce. Bake in a preheated 425ºF oven for about 20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and bundles are slightly golden brown.
- Serve with extra grated parmesan cheese over top, and garnish with fresh basil, if desired.
You can serve these adorable zucchini involtini bundles as a starter or side to any meal. For a light meal, this dish is perfectly satisfying served with a hefty salad and some crusty bread. This time of year we typically enjoy it with this outstanding panzanella salad, or alongside this simple grilled chicken.
Other Zucchini recipes To Try:
- Creamy Zucchini Tomato Soup
- Chocolate Zucchini Recipe
- Zucchini Parmesan and Chive Bread
- Baked Zucchini Fries
If you give this Zucchini Involtini recipe a try, please feel free to leave a comment and/or a star rating below. We appreciate and welcome all your feedback. Thank you!
*For The Marinara Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked pepper
For The Ricotta Filling
- 2 cups (250g) whole milk ricotta
- 3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano divided
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary, or thyme
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Freshly cracked pepper
For The Involtini
- 2 pounds zucchini about 3 large
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked pepper
- Pinch red pepper flakes optional, for garnish
- Chopped fresh basil optional, for garnish
- Make marinara sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and stir until fragrant and slightly brown, about 1 minute. Remove and discard the cloves. Add crushed tomatoes to the pan, and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper each. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally while you prepare the involtini.
- Make ricotta filling: In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, lemon juice, chopped herbs, salt, and pepper. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if necessary. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- Prepare zucchini: Cut both ends off the zucchini. Stand it up on one end and use a sharp knife to slice downward making 1/4-inch, slices. You can also use a mandoline, or y-shaped vegetable peeler to do this (**see notes). You should have about 25 slices.
- Grill zucchini: Lightly drizzle the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and ground pepper. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes a side, or until light char marks appear. Transfer grilled zucchini to a large platter or parchment-lined sheet pan. (See notes for roasting zucchini slices, if preferred).
- Assemble Involtini: Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on the wider end of each grilled zucchini slice. Roll the zucchini around the ricotta mixture, ending with the seam underneath. Nestle the rolled bundles into the tomato sauce, seam-side down. Transfer to the oven and bake until the involtini are slightly golden and warmed through, about 20 minutes.
- Serve: Sprinkle with remaining grated parmesan cheese over top, and garnish with fresh basil. Enjoy!