Our next Zucchini Week recipe is all about the Italian spin: Zucchini Pizza Boats. This quick and easy dinner recipe is kid friendly (hello, PIZZA), adult approved (also PIZZA! plus a built-in serving of veggies and skinny topping options), and the kind of satisfying weeknight meal we all need more of in our lives.
A zucchini boat features fresh zucchini that are split in half, hollowed out down in the center to create a “boat” opening, then stuffed with any manner of your favorite toppings. Once the zucchini boats are filled, you bake them to tender perfection and dive on in.
Zucchini is mild, so it lends itself well to a wide range of flavors (see this Zucchini Stir Fry for a delicious Asian-style prep). You can make zucchini boats with just about any blend of fillings and toppings, but this pizza version is hard to beat. I find that Italian ingredients pair with zucchini especially well (as evidenced by Zucchini Pasta and Zucchini Ravioli).
From the tomatoes in the pizza sauce to the basil on top to the bubbly, melty mozzarella cheese, each ingredient in this recipe works scrumptiously and naturally together.
After a few forkfuls of these Zucchini Pizza Boats, you’ll wish that eating your vegetables could always and forever be this effortless and tasty!
How to Make Zucchini Pizza Boats
Don’t let the simplicity of this recipe fool you. Like many Italian recipes (including margarita pizza itself), a few basic ingredients yield marvelous results.
- Zucchini. Whether you gather them from your garden, the farmers market, or the grocery store, Zucchini Pizza Boats are an ideal way to use up that surplus of squash. Pick zucchini that are similar in size so that they bake in about the same amount of time.
- Prepared Pizza Sauce. Pick a store-bought brand you like. No shame in a shortcut.
- Freshly Grated Mozzarella Cheese. Grating the cheese yourself from the block is SO worth it here. I used a blend of part-skim mozzarella and some provolone that we had hanging out in our refrigerator.
- Parmesan. For the quintessential pizza flavor.
- Italian Seasoning. One of my favorite one-stop spice blends. Bonus: It will make your house smell like an old-school Italian restaurant while the Zucchini Pizza Boats bake.
Once you have your basic ingredients gathered, split your zucchini in half and gently scrape out the seeds.
- TIP! To easily remove the center of the zucchini, use the tip of a small spoon, OR for even easier removal, use a melon baller like this one.
As someone who loathes having a kitchen gadget that only does one thing (I mean, how often am I balling a melon??), I was pleased to find another use for mine!
- Arrange the halved zucchini in a baking dish or on top of a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with salt. Seasoning the zucchini right away will give your pizza boats more flavor.
- Fill with sauce. The exact amount of pizza sauce you need for each boat will vary based on the size of your zucchini. Fill them almost all the way to the top.
- Cheese on. Shredded cheese is a must, as is the Italian seasoning I suggested (you’ll be glad!).
From here, you can play around with your toppings!
Zucchini Pizza Boats—Topping Options
Part of the beauty of this recipe is how easy it is to customize. You aren’t committed to a single flavor. Everyone in your house can create the personal zucchini boat of his or her dreams!
A few of our favorite toppings:
- Mini Pepperoni. My inner kid flipped for these. As the Pizza Zucchini Boats bake, the pepperoni becomes extra crispy. The effect is delightful.
A note on pepperoni: To save zucchini pizza boat calories, you can swap turkey pepperoni for the regular pepperoni. Honestly, I’m glad we splurged for the regular. It’s worth it here!
Can’t find mini pepperoni? Purchase regular pepperoni, then cut it into quarters. Voila!
- Sausage. Another meaty option! Sauté the sausage first, then scatter the pieces over the top of the cheese just before you pop the Zucchini Pizza Boats into the oven. You might also love my Italian Stuffed Zucchini, which does call for sausage.
A note on sausage: For Zucchini Pizza Boats with sausage, I do prefer chicken or turkey sausage over pork sausage as it is less greasy and is still ultra flavorful. You do you.
- Mushrooms. This is a great option if you want the Zucchini Pizza Boats vegetarian but are craving something beyond cheese.
- Green Peppers. For color and crunch.
- Olives. Divisive, but this house loves them. Try combining them with green pepper, pepperoni, onion, and mushroom to make Zucchini Pizza Boats supreme.
- [Insert Your Favorite Pizza Topping Here]. Your Zucchini Pizza Boats are limited only by your imagination. If there’s a topping you love on pizza, try it here.
Vegetable Tip: If your vegetables contain a large amount of natural moisture (like tomatoes or spinach) or are super firm (like diced sweet potatoes), sauté them first until tender and most of the liquid has cooked out, then top your zucchini and bake.
Baking Zucchini Pizza Boats
Once your Zucchini Pizza Boats are stuffed, all that remains is to bake.
- Bake Zucchini Pizza Boats at 375 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes. The exact length of baking time vary based upon the size of the zucchini and how thick you left the “walls” of the zucchini shells.
- You want the zucchini to be tender so that it’s pleasant to chew but not so mushy that it falls apart.
- The cheese should be hot and melty.
- Your kitchen will smell tantalizing.
How to Store Zucchini Pizza Boats
Sadly, you cannot freeze Zucchini Pizza Boats. The zucchini will become mushy and watery.
You do, however, still have excellent storage options! Zucchini Pizza Boats taste great leftover (just not out of the freezer).
- Zucchini Pizza Boats can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
- Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees F, until the cheese is freshly melted and the boats are hot.
In case you missed it, our first official Zucchini Week kicked off with Zucchini Enchiladas, and I’ll be back soon with another yummy zucchini recipe for you!
Zucchini Pizza Boats
- 4 medium zucchini
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup pizza sauce or similar prepared marinara sauce
- 1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or a blend of shredded mozzarella and provolone
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4–1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 cup mini pepperoni or mini turkey pepperoni or regular-size pepperoni, sliced into quarters
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, thyme, or other fresh herbs
MORE OPTIONAL TOPPINGS:
- Sliced baby bella mushrooms
- Diced red onion
- Sliced olives
- Veggies of choice! sauté if they are watery or very firm
- Place a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet or 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
- Halve each zucchini lengthwise. With a small spoon or melon baller, gently scrape out the center zucchini flesh and pulp, leaving a border of about 1/3 inch on all sides. Arrange the zucchini shells on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the insides of the zucchini with salt.
- Spoon the pizza sauce into each shell, dividing it evenly. You may need a little more or less, depending upon the size of your zucchini. Put a generous amount, but don't feel like you need to fill it all the way to the very top.
- Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top, then evenly sprinkle with Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes (if using). Scatter on the pepperoni and any other desired toppings. Last, sprinkle with Parmesan.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is hot and bubbly and the zucchini is tender. If desired, switch the oven to broil and cook the zucchini for 2 to 3 additional minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil. Serve immediately.
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