Zucchini Boats | Italian Style
When your friend refuses to let you out of her house until you take a minimum of four of her garden zucchini, then you come home to find numbers five and six tucked surreptitiously in your bag, it’s official: The Great Zucchini Sneak has begun. Let’s take this delicious opportunity to use it for one of my favorite summer zucchini recipes, Italian Zucchini Boats.
The sneak happened on Monday night, and, after catching a glimpse of just how many zucchini my friend had crammed inside of her refrigerator, I can’t say I blame her for her, um, generosity.
Plus, now I have another reason to make these Italian-style healthy stuffed zucchini boats!
This is one of the earliest recipes I ever posted on my blog. I first made it when I worked in a corporate office and returned to my desk to find an anonymous pile of zucchini sitting squarely in the center of my chair. It remains one of my favorite summer meals, and a few of my earliest readers still make it too (hi Matt and Amy!).
I’ve updated the post with fresh photos and made a few helpful tweaks to the recipe too.
Whether you’re swimming in squash from your own garden, an anonymous donor, or you simply need a healthy meal idea for dinner tonight, these easy stuffed zucchini boats have you covered.
Zucchini boats are an affordable, satisfying dish. They elevate the humble zucchini into a special meal.
While there are as many ways to stuff a zucchini as there are squash to hold the filling, I love this particular recipe because it is jam-packed (literally) with the goodness of late summer.
The filling is a tasty combination of Italian flavors and summer produce heroes: fresh basil, tomato, bell peppers, lean Italian turkey sausage, and Parmesan cheese.
The topping is a mix of whole wheat bread crumbs (to make the recipe gluten free, use gluten-free bread in place of the whole grain bread called for below), olive oil, more fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese.
The recipe does make what will seem like a lot of bread crumb topping, but trust me, you are going to want it all. As the zucchini bakes, it transforms into a golden, toasty “lid” that I caught myself eating right off the top of the zucchini boats before I’d taken a real bite.
With their combination of lean turkey sausage, veggies both inside and out, and whole grains, these healthy stuffed zucchini boats are an ideal all-in-one dinner. They also reheat beautifully the next day, so you can make a big batch to enjoy a few times throughout the week.
No need to drop the squash and ditch, because when Stuffed Zucchini is on the menu, you’ll want to keep every precious zucchini for your own table!
If you like these Italian Zucchini Boats, don’t miss these other stellar zucchini recipes:
- Paleo Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips
- Healthy Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles
- Blacked Zucchini Tacos
- Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
- Plus, all the zucchini recipes in my recipe index!
Italian Zucchini Boats
- 4 zucchini — 5 to 6 inches long
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil — divided
- 1/2 pound ground Italian turkey sausage — casings removed
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1 large red bell pepper — diced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan — plus additional for serving
Place a rack in the upper third of your oven. Preheat to 425 degrees F.
Halve the zucchini lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and discard the seeds. Then, scoop out the soft center flesh to create shallow zucchini “shells,” with walls about 1/2 inch thick, reserving the center flesh. Arrange the zucchini shells in a baking dish. Roughly chop the center flesh and set it aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then add the sausage, onion, and bell pepper. Using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, break apart the sausage, sautéing it together with the vegetables, until the onions are soft and the sausage is browned and fully cooked, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook 1 additional minute, until tomato paste is broken down and incorporated. Add in the reserved zucchini flesh and heat through for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes as desired.
Toast the bread slices, then tear them into large pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the basil and remaining tablespoon olive oil. Pulse until the bread is broken into large crumbs. Add the Parmesan and pulse just until incorporated, 2 or 3 times.
Fold half of the basil bread crumbs into the sausage mixture. With a small spoon, mound the sausage stuffing into the shells, then sprinkle the tops of the stuffed zucchini with the remaining bread crumbs. Roast in oven until the zucchini is heated through and the breadcrumbs are golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Enjoy immediately.
- Tip: Grate cheese the easy way! Before starting the recipe, grate an entire wedge of Parmesan cheese right in your food processor. Cut the wedge into chunks, place them in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, then pulse until ground. Measure out and set aside the 1/2 cup needed for the recipe. Store the remainder in your refrigerator for weeks. You'll always have fresh Parm on hand! Then proceed with making the stuffed zucchini, no need to wash the processor bowl in between.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in a casserole dish the oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through. If the bread crumbs start to brown too much, loosely tent the dish with foil. I do not recommend freezing this recipe, as the zucchini will likely become mushy.
- To make the recipe gluten free, use gluten-free bread. To make the recipe dairy free, omit the Parmesan (or try replacing it with nutritional yeast).
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (of 4)) — Calories: 321, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 34mg, Sodium: 541mg, Carbohydrates: 18g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 7g, Protein: 18g
Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!
And just for fun, here’s the original photo:
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