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This stuffed zucchini rolls recipe combines three cheeses, hot Italian sausage, and aromatics, wrapped up in delicious zucchini! This zucchini involtini recipe is the perfect way to utilize fresh in-season zucchini.
Why this recipe works
Although you can find zucchini year round at the market, peak season for zucchini is June until the end of August. Zucchini has become a popular low carb alternative to pasta. Zucchini holds it’s structure well through cooking and is perfect for making involtini.
My first recipe posted on this site (also my most popular), is my stuffed shells. I took that delicious filling and was inspired by Damn Delicious’s use of rolling zucchini vertically. Her creativity and my favorite filling together, makes an amazing dish that you’ll feel less guilty about eating more of!
How-to cut zucchini ribbons: I used a mandoline to cut the zucchini to ensure all the slices are uniform. If you’re using a mandoline please use the guard and watch your fingers! You can also use a knife, but it will be more difficult to stay uniform and utilize the whole zucchini.
How-to prep zucchini: Much like eggplant, zucchini holds a lot of water. We are going to draw this liquid out, by placing a baking sheet lined with paper towels and the zucchini on top. Then you are going to salt the zucchini, this helps draw the moisture out and also season the zucchini at the same time.
I place paper towel over the zucchini, take another baking sheet and weigh it down. If you don’t have an extra baking dish or something to weigh it down, after 10 minutes just ensure to press down to draw out all the moisture.
How-to make zucchini filling: While your zucchini is sweating, time to work on the filling. In a large skillet you’re going to cook the hot Italian sausage, break it down so it has the consistency of a crumble. Remove from the skillet, and then add minced garlic and fresh spinach. Allow the spinach to wilt (don’t you hate how much spinach shrinks?) then put it together with the hot Italian sausage in a bowl.
The rest of the ingredients are: mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta cheese. I try to get the skim/low-fat variety of mozzarella and ricotta if it’s available. Then I add: one egg, fresh chopped basil, and crushed red pepper flakes. I don’t add additional salt, because the cheese is naturally salty and the zucchini has been salted as well.
Assembling zucchini rolls
How-to stuff zucchini Now comes the stuffing! Spoon mixture onto the dried zucchini in an even layer. Leave a little space at the end of the zucchini ribbon, so the roll can close.
How-to roll zucchini: I use two fingers to hold in the stuffing while I roll so it doesn’t fall out, if it does no worries. You don’t want to overstuff or else they won’t properly close.
Once you have your zucchini rolled, you are going to put it in your oven safe skillet. I get a lot of questions about tomato sauce in a cast iron skillet, as long as your cast iron is properly seasoned it can handle the acid from the sauce. You can also use a baking dish instead of a skillet.
Involtini tip: When you place your rolls in the skillet or baking dish, have the outer flap press up against the wall of the skillet, so it doesn’t unravel. I work from the outside in. It seems tedious rolling them at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be a rockstar at it.
I like to use arrabbiata sauce in this dish because I love the extra spice, if you aren’t fond of spicy you can substitute your favorite red sauce.
Baking the stuffed zucchini involtini
Top the stuffed zucchini rolls with cheese, then bake in the oven for 25 minutes until cheese has melted and begins to brown. You can turn the broiler on for a few minutes if you want the cheese to crisp up and brown on top (keep an eye on it).
Serve the stuffed zucchini with freshly chopped basil and if you want more spice, some crushed red pepper on top.
I hope you enjoy this delicious low carb zucchini dish!
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- 3 large zucchini (sliced into thin ribbons with mandoline)
- 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage ((if in link form, remove skin))
- 6 ounces fresh spinach (roughly chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 ounces skim milk ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces shredded skim mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups)
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (divided)
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup fresh basil (roughly chopped + more for garnish)
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 22 ounces Arrabbiata sauce
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- Using a mandoline, carefully slice the zucchini long ways into long ribbons. Grab a baking sheet, line with paper towels and lay the zucchini ribbons down flat next to each other. Sprinkle the 1/2 tbsp of kosher salt over the zucchini to draw the moisture out. Place additional paper towels on top, then weigh down with another baking sheet.
- While the zucchini is prepping, take a large skillet and place over medium high heat. Cook the hot Italian sausage fully through, breaking it up into small pieces. Once it is fully cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl. Lower the heat to medium, add 2 tbsp olive oil, add the minced garlic, and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add in the roughly chopped spinach and sauté until it is wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and add to large bowl with sausage inside.
- In the large bowl add ingredients: ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan, egg, 1/4 cup fresh basil, and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix until fully combined.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Pour jar of arrabbiata sauce into the bottom of the skillet or baking dish and spread evenly. Remove paper towels from zucchini and wipe away any leftover water. Take 2 spoons of the mix and spread it evenly onto the zucchini ribbon, leaving 1/2 inch on the end to secure the roll.
- Roll the zucchini, using your fingers to help keep the stuffing in. Place the roll into the skillet/dish with the opening of the flap against the wall of the dish, to keep it from unraveling. Repeat until skillet is full with the rolls.
- Top the zucchini involtini with the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. If you want the top more browned and bubbly you can broil for a minute (keep an eye).
- Remove from oven, top with fresh basil and serve!
- If you skip the salting of the zucchini, the dish will end up very watery.
- Although available year round, zucchini is in season from June to late August
- Use a mandoline (with safety guard) to get even and thin zucchini ribbons
- I use fresh mozzarella and freshly grate, as well as a block of parmesan and freshly grate. Pre-shredded cheeses have anti-caking ingredients that do not melt as well.
- To make vegetarian, remove sausage from the recipe.
- Prep time is chopping of ingredients, prepping and rolling zucchini. Cook time is for the active cooking of the sausage, spinach, and the baking of the dish in the oven.
- If your cast iron is not well seasoned or concerned with red sauce, you can use an enameled pan, pie dish, or square baking dish