These delicious zucchini roll-ups are meatless and made with cottage cheese as a replacement for ricotta. They are mixed with fresh herbs, hearty spinach, and melty mozzarella cheese. A perfect low-carb appetizer for a crowd or served as the main dish for a weeknight family dinner! Anyway you serve them they are a winner!
These zucchini roll-ups are like healthy stuffed shells and just like lasagna without the noodles. The cheese concoction inside is absolutely amazing. I could eat it right out of the bowl. (I actually did with my leftovers : 0). The only thing I didn't do right was make enough because you could eat about ten and still want more.
Ingredients for this easy lasagna meal
Below is a picture of the ingredients you will need with a few tips listed underneath!
- 2 large zucchini - ends trimmed off and cut lengthwise then cut into super thin strips. You want them to be the thinnest you can possibly make them. If you make them too thick they don't get as soft and are tougher to chew.
- reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese - the cheese will be divided throughout the recipe.
- grated Parmesan cheese - for convenience you can buy your parmesan cheese already grated or you can buy a block of parmesan cheese and grate it yourself. To grind parmesan, cut a block into 1-inch chunks. Place the chunks in a food processor (no more than 1 pound at a time) and process until ground into coarse particles, about 20 seconds. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
- cottage cheese - this is what I use in place of the ricotta. The difference between the two is ricotta cheese is made from very fine curds, resulting in a smooth but slightly grainy texture. Cottage cheese, on the other hand, contains more liquid and is lumpier than ricotta. Ricotta also contains less salt than cottage cheese and tends to be on the sweeter side
- frozen spinach - thawed and squeezed to get out as much extra liquid as you can. To thaw your spinach you can do one of the following - 1. Place frozen spinach in a bowl the night before and leave in fridge until morning. 2. Leave frozen spinach in a bowl on the counter at room temperature. 3. Put frozen spinach on a microwave safe plate and use the defrost setting on the microwave to quickly thaw your spinach. 4. Place the spinach in a colander and run it under warm water and continually turn the spinach until fully thawed.
- low-sodium marinara sauce - the sauce will be divided throughout the recipe. You can use store bought, but can also make your sauce from scratch, if you've got the time. Since I have 3 little ones running around, time tends to get away from me!
How to make zucchini roll-ups
These little roll ups are actually pretty simple to make, but they look super professional when done. You could always serve these over a whole wheat pasta if you wish.
Step 1 - Preheat the oven to 425 °. Then, start by slicing your zucchini super thin. I wrote a step-by-step below on how to slice your zucchini. Once they are sliced I tossed them in a large mixing bowl with olive oil, salt, and ground black pepper.
Step 2 - Arrange the zucchini on 2 large rimmed baking sheets in a single layer. Bake them for 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven and set aside.
Step 3 - Meanwhile, combine shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan in a small bowl and set aside.
Step 4 - In a separate medium sized mixing bowl, mix an egg, cottage cheese, spinach, garlic, and some more mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Add in more salt and pepper here, if desired.
Step 5 - Spread marinara sauce onto the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. You can also have your children help with this step.
Step 6 - Now for the fun part 🙂 Lay your cooked zucchini strips on a flat surface and using a spoon, scoop out about a tablespoon of cottage cheese mix and place at the bottom part of the zucchini strip. Roll zucchini strip up until you form a pinwheel. Continue until you've used all your strips.
Step 7 - Place the zucchini roll-ups seam-side down on top of the marinara sauce-covered dish. Continue until all your zucchini are rolled up and placed on the dish.
Step 8 - Pour more marinara sauce on top of the rolled zucchini and sprinkle with extra mozzarella and parmesan cheese mix.
Step 9 - Bake for another 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with some basil before serving. I can actually taste them right now while I'm explaining this step! Yum!
How to cut zucchini for this dish
Step 1 - chop off the ends, then cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise.
Step 2 - Lay the cut side down on a cutting board. Hold the top of the zucchini with one hand and cut with the other using a vegetable knife. This is helpful with slicing the strips of zucchini to make them super thin.
Step 3 - Hold the knife in your dominant hand when slicing zucchini with a knife. While holding the zucchini in place with your non-dominant hand, cut the zucchini into thin slices.
*Keep your fingers out of the blade's way so you do not accidentally cut yourself.
Tip #1 - You want them to be the thinnest you can possibly make them. If you make them too thick they don't get as soft and are tougher to chew.
Tip #2 - Use a mandolin slicer to cut your zucchini. After step 1, use the slicer in place of step 2. This is the Mandolin Slicer I have and love!
How can the kids help
If you also love involving your kiddos in the cooking process then this meal is great for that reason. I had my 2, 3, and 5 year old involved and they were successfully able to lay the strips of zucchini onto the baking tray.
I baked them before stuffing them to make them easier to roll up. The kids had a ball and really enjoyed helping me out. They thought the zucchini strips were "silly" because they wiggled when they moved them from the cutting board to the tray.
What to serve with zucchini roll ups
These roll-ups can totally be served at your next party as a low-carb, low-calorie, appetizer or served as a side dish with your favorite protein meal. They would complement these delicious Easy Pork Chops as an option, as well.
Want to keep the whole meal vegetarian? Serve them on the side with these insanely tasty American Portobello Mushroom Burgers!
Here are a few substitution ideas if you want to change up the ingredients or just don't have them on hand.
Mozzarella Cheese and Parmesan Cheese - if you're looking to make your meal dairy-free then you can completely omit the cheese. I have added a sub below for the cottage cheese to follow along with your dairy-free dinner.
Cottage Cheese - sticking with dairy-free, then try an almond milk ricotta. I am a big fan of the brand Kitehill and they have an almond milk ricotta.
Egg - I like using an egg for this recipe because it helps the filling mixture stick together better. You can swap the egg with a flax egg for a vegan egg replacer. To make a flax egg you combine 1 tbsp flaxseed meal and 3 tbsp of water for one egg. Let it sit for 5 minutes before adding it to your recipe. I like using Bob's Red Mill whole ground flaxseed meal.
Frozen Spinach, Thawed - you do not have to use frozen spinach and thaw it, but I find it more convenient. If you use fresh spinach, then you will need to steam it or saute it so that it becomes wilted before mixing it into your filling. If you use fresh spinach, then you will need 1-½ pounds of fresh spinach.
Tips and FAQ's
Yes, the answer is yes! This meal is vegetarian and I use no meat, but if you'd like to make it more hearty you can add one pound of your desired meat. Some suggestions are ground turkey, sausage, meat sauce, ground beef, or even some ground chicken. You would need to brown the meat before adding it into your filling mixture.
Make sure your zucchini is sliced into super thin slices. The thinner the slice, the less water. Salt your zucchini right after slicing and let it sit for 15 min. Salting your zucchini draws the water out.
Freeze in an airtight container before you bake. It will taste completely fresh before you go to bake it. You can also freeze it after baking, but make sure it is completely cooled before you store it in the freezer. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and cover your zucchini dish with foil. Bake in the oven until cheese is bubbly and melty; about 5 to 10 minutes. More cheese can also be added before reheating.
You most certainly can! My tip is to not bake the meal until you're ready to eat it. You want your cheese to be fresh and gooey! You can store your pre-assembled dish in the fridge covered with foil for up to 24 hours.
Other zucchini recipes to try
If you give this dish a try don't forget to rate the recipe below! Always love hearing what you all think. You can also Stay in touch with me through social media on @Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. Don't forget to tag me when you try one of my healthy recipes!
Zucchini Roll Ups
- 1 8-inch square baking dish
- 1 large rim baking sheet
- 2 large zucchini ends trimmed and cut into thin strips, lengthwise
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp kosher salt to taste
- 8 tbsp reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese divided
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese divided
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1⅓ cups part-skim ricotta or cottage cheese
- 1 10 oz package frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- ¾ cup low-sodium marinara sauce divided
- 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
- Preheat oven to 425° and position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.
- Slice zucchini lengthwise to get 24 total strips, about ⅛ inch thick each. Use a mandolin slicer to get them ultra-thin, if possible.
- Toss the zucchini in ¼ tsp olive oil, and kosher salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Arrange the zucchini in a singel layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets.
- Bake the zucchini, turning once, until tender, about 10 minutes total.
- Meanwhile, combine 2 tbsp. mozz and 1 tbsp. parm in a small bowl. Mix egg, ricotta or cottage cheese, spinach, garlic, and the remaining 6 tbsp. mozz and 2 tbsp. parm and ¼ tsp. ground black pepper and ⅛ kosher salt in a medium bowl.
- Spread ¼ cup marinara in an 8-inch square baking dish. Place 1 tbsp. of the ricotta (or cottage cheese) mix near the bottom of the strip of zucchini. Roll it up and place, seam-side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining zucchini and filling. Top the rolls with the remaining ½ cup marinara sauce and sprinkle with the reserved cheese mixture. Sprinkle Italian seasoning on top.
- Bake the zucchini until the cheese is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with more Italian seasoning, if desired, right before serving.