An overload of zucchini is a summer tradition that I look forward to with gusto every season. I adore both the challenge of creating unique ways to prepare it and revisiting my absolute favorite zucchini recipes, starting with Stuffed Zucchini.

Four stuffed zucchini halves in a baking dish

These zesty stuffed zucchini are packed with Italian-inspired ingredients like Italian turkey sausage, tomatoes, and a shower of basil Parmesan breadcrumbs.

Cheesy, herby, and healthy, they’re a dream (zucchini) boat.<—sorry, couldn’t help myself!

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 a pile of zucchini sitting squarely in the center of my chair, an anonymous “gift” from a coworker with a particularly productive crop.

Years later, this recipe remains one of my favorite meals, and I know many of you still enjoy making it too.

Whether you just planted a plethora of zucchini plants in your own garden, anticipate you’ll be gifted a surplus of zucchini from friends or family, or you simply need a healthy meal idea for dinner tonight, these easy stuffed zucchini boats have you covered.

Stuffed zucchini halves in a baking dish with fresh basil

Stuffed Zucchini – Simple and Impressive

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 Italian flavors.

The filling is a tasty combination of Italian classics and summer produce heroes: fresh basil, tomato, bell peppers, lean Italian turkey sausage, and Parmesan cheese.

The topping is a mix of whole wheat breadcrumbs, olive oil, more fresh basil, and more Parmesan.

These zucchini boats are hearty and fully flavored, but still fairly light. If you’re looking for something a little more decadent (say, cheese stuffed zucchini boats), try these ultra cheesy Zucchini Pizza Boats instead.

A skillet with Italian sausage, red bell pepper, and onion

How to Make Stuffed Zucchini

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.

The Ingredients

  • Zucchini. Zucchini makes an ideal vessel for our scrumptious Italian-inspired ingredients. Plus, it’s rich in Vitamin-A and antioxidants. The best part? You do eat the skin on zucchini boats, so there’s no need to peel the zucchini before eating it.
  • Italian Sausage. I used ground Italian turkey sausage, and it was ideal. Turkey is packed with lean protein, and the Italian herbs and spices that are added to the meat give the zucchini boats additional flavor.
  • Red Bell Pepper + Red Onion. For beautiful color, more veggies, and complexity.
  • Tomato Paste. Tomato paste imparts rich, deep flavor that tastes like you’ve been cooking away all day.
  • Basil. A touch of basil adds freshness and a taste of summer sunshine.
  • Whole Wheat Bread + Parmesan. For our crispy breadcrumb topping. The recipe does make what will seem like a lot of breadcrumb topping, but trust me, you are going to want it all. As the zucchini bakes, the breadcrumbs transform 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.

The Directions

Zucchini cut in half with the center flesh scooped out

  1. Prepare the zucchini shells, and place them in a baking dish. (See below for tips on how to hollow out zucchini.)
    Italian sausage and peppers cooking in a skillet
  2. Brown the sausage, onion, and bell pepper in a skillet. Add the spices.
    A skillet with sauteed Italian sausage and peppers
  3. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste, and add the scooped zucchini flesh.
    A food processor with basil Parmesan breadcrumbs
  4. Prepare the Parmesan basil breadcrumb topping in a food processor.
    Zucchini stuffed with Italian sausage and tomatoes
  5. Stir half of the breadcrumbs into the sausage mixture. Mound the zucchini shells with the sausage filling, topping each one with the remaining breadcrumbs. Bake at 425 degrees F for 13 to 15 minutes. DIG IN!

How to Hollow Out Zucchini for Zucchini Boats

After cutting each zucchini in half lengthwise, you hollow out zucchini as follows by removing both the seeds and center flesh.

  • I like to use the tip of a small spoon or a melon baller to first remove the seeds and discard them. Earlier in the season, small zucchini may have very few seeds, while larger, later season zucchini may have many.
  • Once the seeds are discarded, scoop out the center flesh. This I reserve for the zucchini filling.
  • I use two fingers to grip the top of the zucchini while I scoop out the flesh. When scooping, be sure to apply enough pressure to remove the flesh but not enough to cut through the bottom.

Recipe Adaptations

  • To Make Gluten Free. Use gluten-free bread for your breadcrumb topping.
  • To Make Dairy Free. Omit the Parmesan, or use nutritional yeast instead.
  • To Make Vegetarian. For vegetarian stuffed zucchini, omit the ground turkey. Take a note from my Mushroom Tacos, and try mushroom stuffed zucchini as a “meaty” substitute.
  • To Make Vegan. Follow both the vegetarian and dairy-free adaptations above.
  • To Make Keto. For a keto stuffed zucchini, omit the breadcrumbs and make sure that your Italian sausage is keto friendly.

Italian turkey sausage filling being added to zucchini halves

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm stuffed zucchini in a casserole dish the oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through. If the breadcrumbs start to brown too much, loosely tent the dish with foil. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.
  • Can You Freeze Stuffed Zucchini? I do not recommend freezing stuffed zucchini, as the zucchini will likely become mushy. Enjoy the leftovers within a few days or give them to friends.

More Delicious Zucchini Recipes

Italian stuffed zucchini halves in a white baking dish

Recommended Tools to Make Zucchini Boats

  • Skillet. A high-quality skillet is an essential tool in my kitchen.
  • Spatula. I use this basic spatula ALL the time.
  • Extra Large Cutting Board. The extra space is so helpful when preparing the zucchini for this recipe.
  • Melon Baller. The perfect tool for hollowing out the zucchini.

Embrace the zucchini surplus this year, and make this five-star stuffed zucchini on repeat.

If you do try this recipe, please let me know what you think in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

Healthy Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats – low carb baked zucchini boats stuffed with lean ground turkey sausage, tomatoes, and topped with crispy basil breadcrumbs. An easy, healthy, all-in-one dinner that your whole family will love! Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

Stuffed Zucchini with Sausage and Parmesan

5 from 16 votes
Healthy Stuffed Zucchini boats with lean turkey sausage, tomatoes, and a delicious cheesy Parmesan topping. A quick, easy, and flavorful low carb dinner!

Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 40 mins

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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 breadcrumbs 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 breadcrumbs. Roast in oven until the zucchini is heated through and the breadcrumbs are golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Enjoy immediately.

Notes

  • 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.
  • TO STORE: Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm stuffed zucchini in a casserole dish the oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through. If the breadcrumbs start to brown too much, loosely tent the dish with foil. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 321kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 18gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 541mgFiber: 4gSugar: 7g

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And just for fun, here’s the original photo:

Two stuffed zucchini halves on a white plate

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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60 Comments

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  1. Haha – I need to come to your office and check “unguarded file cabinets” for zucchini!!!
    These zucchini look delish – but I am not quite able to connect to the “food fanatic” site – maybe its my computer…will try later….

    1. You won’t even have to search Shashi–they are EVERYWHERE, lol. Come on over, and I’ll spread the squash wealth! (PS. Glad you got the link to work; if you ever have a link issue, I appreciate your letting me know!)

  2. I’d be okay if you gave me a break from zucchini bread! :) I need a savory zucchini recipe – though cheese omelets don’t sound that bad. Gorgeous pics!

  3. Stuffed zucchinis are my favourite but your version sounds much much better than mine. Wow, look at how much deliciousness, I think I might actually like this better than zucchini bread :D

    1. Thanks so much Consuelo! That really means a lot. I hope you enjoy this recipe (and get your fill of zucchini bread too :) )

  4. Hi Erin! We have a zucchini plant growing in our front yard and it has been producing, producing, producing! I’ll have to make these stuffed zucchini…and soon! Thank you for sharing with me! I hope you have a wonderful start to your week.

    1. Monet, I’m jealous of your zucchini plant’s zeal! You must be making so many tasty dishes, and I hope you love this one too. Have a great week yourself!

  5. Yuuum! I love zucchini! It’s a strange thing to say, as I used to hate them as a child (I think it was the slightly ambiguous flavour, the ‘squeaky teeth’ phenomenon and the slight ‘sliminess’). The stuffing for these zucchini sounds wonderful… basil breadcrumbs?! Yes please!!! Heading over to Food Fanatic now! xx

  6. seriously love you. fun to read, great ideas, makes me wanna cook something. Im a vegan and am trying to get my boyfriend to also be vegan so yummy tofu recipes is where its at….. xoxox thankyou.

    1. Hey Briana! Thanks so much for your kind words–totally makes my day! I have a few vegan recipes on here, but otherwise, many of my recipes (especially stir fries and even this stuffed zucchini) can be easily adapted to be vegan. I love tofu myself, but still working on bringing the Mr. around. Maybe I can start sneaking it in without telling him? Thanks again and have a great day!

  7. Hi Erin, I am one of your newer followers, joining in from Germany. I have an ingredient related question: What is Italian turkey sausage? I live (comparatively) close to Italy (much closer than the US, anyway), but I never came across one :-) We have a fantastic Italian delicatessen here and I would like to ask them, but I am not sure what to ask for. Is it a smoked kind of sausage, is it like Salsiccia (it’s rather greasy, though, not lean)?
    Thanks so much, this all looks terrific!
    Sophie

    1. Hi Sophia! Great question. It’s essentially turkey sausage with Italian spices added. I think you could make your own by adding things like red pepper flakes, Italian herbs, garlic, and fennel seeds. I hope that helps!

  8. Perfect for summer! I tried it yesterday and turned out really delicious. Thanks for sharing this.5 stars

    1. Christine, I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for giving it a try and reporting back.

  9. These were wonderful! I made them pretty much exactly as in the recipe, though I found they needed a longer baking time (personal preference, I like my zucchini a bit softer). They are so flavorful, yet not too filling, and really showcased the flavour of the zucchini. I have a mountain of zucchini from my garden, and this recipe is perfect to eat it up! I love your recipes, Erin.5 stars

    1. Kim, I’m so glad to hear you loved this recipe! Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to leave this awesome review!

  10. Loved these zucchini boats! I had to tweak things because I searched for a recipe last second using the ingredients I had on hand (Diestel Italian ground turkey, one 4 by 6 inch freshly picked zucchini, mushroom spaghetti sauce; had no red pepper, mushrooms, garlic , fresh parsley or breadcrumbs), but it turned out to be delicious  anyway and I will absolutely make this again! Thank you – this is going in my regular rotation for sure. Can’t wait to try it as written next time…5 stars

    1. Maila, thank you so much for giving this recipe a try and sharing your tweaks! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  11. 4 year old: “I like them! They are cute!”
    1 year old: “mmmmmm”
    Dad/husband: “Oh MAN!!!”

    This was a super tasty and healthy dinner that every.single.person in my family loved – it will become a regular in our summer rotation!! I was able to prep everything the night before and when I got home tonight I put the pre-stuffed zucchini in the oven for 15 minutes and dinner was done by the time I set the table! Thanks for yet another winner, Erin! (ps – don’t tell but I cheated and used store bought breadcrumbs!)5 stars

    1. Rachel, I am SO THRILLED you all enjoyed this so much! Your comments make my day <3 Thanks so much for sharing this (and your secret is safe with me;-) )

  12. Great tasting. My young adult son even really liked it (“either this is really good or I’m really hungry” & took 2nds) – even better than a cheesesteak styled stuffed zucchini boat I recently made.5 stars

  13. I love stuffed zucchini and will be making this soon. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us. I wish I had friends passing off some extra zucchini. We purchase ours at Costco…a mixture of zucchini and yellow squash.

  14. Another winner from Erin!  I made this recently and it was so delicious.  Sausage was a nice change for us…..definitely going into dinner rotation.  I’d post a photo here, but I don’t think I can.  5 stars

  15. These are fantastic. So easy to make and very flavorful. I made ours with Italian Chicken Sausage as that is what our market had. I did need to bake them for half an hour so the zucchini was cooked, but a little al dente which was perfect. Highly recommend!5 stars

  16. I got a zucchini and a yellow squash in a produce box I purchased from a restaurant supplier in this crazy time of staying home. (Keeps me from going to the insane grocery store). I used this recipe to fill them both and my husband loved it after our bike ride this evening. Can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I didn’t have sausage, but I just put a bunch of yummy Italian spices in some ground turkey meat and it was great. I also didn’t have a bell pepper so I used a green jalapeno. And I was in a hurry so I just used canned bread crumbs and a tub of Parmesan cheese from the fridge. Delicious.

    These are the times when you open the fridge and look what’s there, then google some ingredients to see what is possible. :)5 stars

  17. Everyone in our family loves this recipe. The flavors are outstanding and the breadcrumbs were totally worth it. THANK YOU! Looking forward to making this all summer5 stars

  18. SO GOOD! I have a 4 year old who eats everything and a husband who is SO picky, but both guys gobbled this up!!! :o) :o) :o) I need to work on my zucchini scooping technique, but the sausage filling covered up my lack of skill. Delicious! Thank you, Erin!5 stars

  19. This was Amazing!!!! Thank you so much!  My friend gave me some huge zucchini from her garden.  I cooked maybe double the time recommended.  It was probably one of my favorite new recipes.  Thank you 5 stars

  20. This is a wonderful tasty recipe. I added double the garlic and double the black pepper for more flavor. Black pepper and garlic makes just about everything taste better. I also had some somewhat stale French bread in the fridge so I used that instead of the wheat bread. I love that you toast the bread first.  Very healthy! I will make again. 5 stars