What better way to eat a Zucchini that to scoop out the inside and stuff it with something yummy? Plus, you get the novelty of calling it a boat, or I suppose if it’s a rather large zucchini, an ocean liner. But in the words of Sophia Petrillo, “I digress.”
Usually, folks stuff zucchini with some type of ground meat (usually beef or lamb) and then some cheese*, but I usually make my with mushrooms and other vegetables. Beans would be good in the stuffing, too. Endless possibilities!
*Nutrition Police: Yes, ground meat stuffing would be and is delicious (not even trying to deny it) and as an occasional treat or special occasion would be totally fine! But a serving size of ground beef is actually only 3 oz (if you measured what you normally considered a serving size, I bet it’s double) and it contains a lot of fat and 20% of your daily value of cholesterol (but again, you likely eat more than you should, so it could be something like 40%). Then, you pile on some cheese, which adds another 8% of daily cholesterol per serving. Heart break Hotel, indeed.
But, this preparation gives us none of those woes. It’s low-fat and cholesterol free. This meal takes about 40 minutes, quick 10-15 min prep and then 25-30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
Here’s the play-by-play for Stuffed Zucchini Boats:
1. Turn your oven to 400 and preheat. Wash those fresh zucchini (4-5 medium ones) and slice them in half lengthwise, or as I’d tell my students “hot dog style.”
2. Scoop out the seeds and innards with a spoon. You can save them and put them into your stuffing or discard them. Note: Discarding them will lead to a thicker stuffing, using them makes a wetter stuffing. you can do either; I really just use them so there’s less waste.
Then, chop about 1/2 of an onion, mince 2-3 cloves of garlic, and chop about 1/2-3/4 cup of cremini, button, or whichever kinds of mushrooms you like (I used leftover Chickens of the Woods). You’ll also need about 2 cups of tomato sauce (I had some leftover sauce from my Eggplant Un-Parmesan; use whatever you like).
(If you don’t want mushrooms, you could use some canned beans, like chickpeas or cannellini; just drain, rinse, and mash them a little with a fork. This would add a little more protein to the dish, which I didn’t need because I had tuna for lunch!).
You’ll also want these pantry items at your disposal: about 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, pinch red pepper flakes, pinch of oregano, a few tablespoons of olive oil.
3. In a bowl, combine the onion, garlic, mushrooms, 3/4 to 1 cup tomato sauce, oregano, red pepper, olive oil, and breadcrumbs (and the zucchini flesh if you didn’t discard). Season with a little salt and pepper to taste. The stuffing should be thick and wet but able to hold its shape when mashed together. If it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs; if it’s too dry, add more sauce.
4. In a 13 by 9 inch baking dish, smear a thin coat of the tomato sauce.
5. Stuff the zucchini with the stuffing and place it in the baking dish.
6. Top each zucchini with more breadcrumbs and a very light drizzle of olive oil. Then you’re ready to cover the dish with aluminum foil and put it in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
Once it comes out of the oven, let is rest for 5 minutes or so. Here’s the finished product, plated:
Serve it with a veggie side or green salad. Or, not. Up to you!
There are clearly a million variations to this dish, here are a couple: Taco-stuffed Zucchini, Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini, or if you don’t like or don’t have zucchini, you could put any of these fillings to make a stuffed bell pepper, another of my favorites.