Involtini is an Italian dish that consists of a filling (often cheese) that is rolled up in some type of outer layer (beef, chicken, vegetables, cured meat etc). Eggplant is a very popular choice for for this meal but I thought I would use zucchini - also popular. I had plenty of zucchini to use and saw a fabulous recipe on Food52 site which I had to make. I kept close to the recipe expect I made my own sauce for it which is so simple to whip up and so delicious and I also used spinach instead of chard in it to keep things simple and it was also what I had in the fridge.
I love that the zucchini slices are roasted and not fried making it a bit lighter. We made this for dinner one midweek evening and although there are a few steps involved in making it, they are all super simple and totally doable even in the midweek. That being said, I am a multitasker and I don’t mind a recipe with a few steps. But this one can also easily be made ahead. The whole thing can be made and wrapped and stored in the fridge until you are ready to bake it (I wouldn’t keep it in the fridge for longer than a day) or what I like to do is roast my veggies and prep the sauce the day before and then the next day I just need to fill roll and bake. You could also use a store-bought sauce to make it even easier and one less step.
This is a very delicious vegetarian meal but very easily made vegan as well using my favourite flavourful vegan ricotta recipe. I included it below and it is totally perfect for this recipe if you are looking to keep it dairy free. The creamy ricotta filling - vegan or regular makes this dish rich without being overly heavy probably because the ricotta is wrapped not in pasta or meat but roasted slices of zucchini.
This is one of those meals that you can literally take out of the oven, set on the table with a few forks and spoons and crusty bread and that is all you need! The sauce is fabulous and deserves to be mopped up with crusty bread after each zucchini roll-up disappears from the pan- trust me they disappear quickly. This will be on repeat all through zucchini season. If you love zucchini make sure to check out the zucchini salad I just posted and do stay tuned for one of my favourite zucchini loaves coming to the blog soon - in the meantime try this Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Bread.
For the Zucchini
- 2-3 medium zucchini thinly sliced lengthways (approx 20 slices)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Sauce
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ tsp chili flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 400 gram can tomatoes and their juices
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A large handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
For the Filling
- 1½ cups ricotta cheese
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 8 oz fresh or frozen spinach (frozen must be thawed and squeezed dry)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 clove of garlic minced
For the Garnishes
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Chopped fresh basil and or parsley
- In a large sauté pan over a low heat, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. (I like to use one that is oven-safe that way I can bake the eggplant rolls right In the same pan) Add the garlic, Italian seasoning and chili flakes if using and sauté for another minute.
- Add all remaining sauce ingredients and leave to simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Pour sauce into a baking dish and set aside or if using the same pan to bake the zucchini rolls in just set it aside.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two sheetpans with parchment paper. Trim the stem end of each zucchini. Stand each vertically, and make ¼-inch thick cuts down to create long slices. Arrange the slices on the prepared sheetpans. Drizzle them with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to oven and roast for 15 minutes.
- Remove pans from the oven. Use a fork or spatula to flip each zucchini slices over, return pans to the oven, and roast for 5 minutes if needed. Once done the zucchini should be cooked enough to easily roll. Remove pan from oven and set aside. The cooking times will vary depending on how thinly you slice your zucchini.
- While the sauce is simmering and zucchini is in the oven, in a large sauté pan set over high heat, heat the tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and spinach leaves, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté for about 2 minutes or until wilted. Remove pan and set aside to cool
- To make the filling, in a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, lemon zest, thyme, and ¼ teaspoon salt. When spinach has cooled, stir it into the ricotta mixture. Season well with salt to taste.
- Place a spoonful of filling at one end of each of the zucchini slices. Roll the slice into a tight coil and place it seam-side down in the dish or pan on top of the tomato sauce. Transfer to the oven and bake until the sauce has reduced slightly and is bubbling, and the rolls are lightly golden on top, about 25 minutes. If the rolls are still not golden after the 25 minutes. broil for the last couple of minutes if not as golden as you would like them to be.
- Remove and serve with grated Parmesan cheese and garnished with fresh chopped basil and or parsley
Recipe for Vegan Ricotta
- 4 cups medium-packed fresh spinach
- 2 small garlic cloves
- ¾ cup raw cashews
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup crumbled extra-firm tofu
- 1 teaspoon dreid oregano
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Add ½ tsp of dry harissa seasoning as optional
- Fill a large pot with 1 inch of water and insert a steamer basket. Place the spinach and the garlic in the basket and bring to a boil. Cover and steam for 2 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted but still bright green. Remove the garlic and set aside. Scoop the spinach onto a kitchen towel or paper towels and squeeze out the excess water. Roughly chop.
- In a blender, place the garlic, cashews, water, lemon juice, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Porcess until creamy.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the tofu, steamed spinach, oregano, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, harissa (if using) and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir in the cashew. Taste and add more salt, if desired.