Zucchini boats (stuffed zucchini) are summer’s answer to flexibility.
I like them with sausage. Friend Rosetta makes them with ricotta cheese. I’ve even seen variations with quinoa or faro with cheese, and tofu and rice for vegetarians. The beauty of stuffed zucchini “boats” is that you can pretty much stuff and bake them with whatever you like (or whatever you have on hand if you are using up leftovers).
Stuffed zucchini is a simple dish often using seasonal ingredients. And, by par-boiling the whole zucchinis, you can cut down on oven time, which is great if you live in a place where it’s hot during summer. This past week in Lucca it was over 100F/~38C. Phew!
Tip: Save the larger zucchinis for meal-sized portions. The little ones make great appetizers and can be served at room temperature, depending on what you stuff them with.
If you make a variation, let me know which ingredients you use and how you liked them!
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The Mighty Flexible Zucchini Boats
- 4-6 medium zucchinis, preferably equal size for even cooking
- 16 ounces (one pound) sweet or spicy sausage, casings removed
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 ounces meltable cheese (choose hard mozzarella, provolone, fontina, gouda, or whatever you have on hand), grated or finely diced
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, divided (to make breadcrumbs, grind slices of bread in a blender)
- 1 tablespoon finely diced fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon finely diced fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Olive oil to drizzle
- Pre-heat oven to 375 F (190C)
- Bring large pot of water to a boil and boil whole zucchinis (do not cut stems or ends… if you do, they will get waterlogged) for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool enough to handle
- Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and using a spoon, scoop out the center portions and set aside. Tip: If you have a melon baller, that works great as a scoop. Leave enough zucchini in its skin so that it can hold its shape and not break when stuffed
- Finely chop the parts of the zucchini you scooped out and place in a large mixing bowl
- Over medium heat brown the sausage with a little olive oil until cooked
- Add the onions to the sausage and cook until the they are transparent (about 5-7 minutes). Drain the excess fat from the pan
- Add the sausage to the mixing bowl with the chopped zucchini. Add 1/2 cup of the fresh bread crumbs along with the cheese and chopped herbs and seasonings. Mix well
- Over the mixing bowl and with your hands, stuff and lightly pack down each zucchini shell with the sausage mixture and place in a baking dish just large enough to hold them (if you have excess space in the pan, crumple some aluminum foil to hold the zucchinis in place). You will likely have leftover stuffing. Place it in a foil packet and bake it along with the stuffed zucchinis. It’s just as good without its boat!
- Top the zucchini boats with the remaining fresh breadcrumbs. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the top of each zucchini
- Bake for 25 minutes