Zucchini boats are a wonderful way to use up all the gorgeous zucchini growing in the garden. This recipe features hollowed out zucchini halves stuffed with Italian beef mixture and lots of Mozzarella cheese on top. It’s a perfect summer dish that’s light but quite filling.
There are so many recipes to make during zucchini season like Zucchini Fritters, Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats, and Zucchini Tomato Soup. So whether you’re making side dishes, main dishes, snacks, or soups, try them all and enjoy this beautiful vegetable.
ZUCCHINI BOATS RECIPE
Stuffed zucchini boats is a classic recipe with endless possibilities. It’s so easy to make and since zucchini on its own has such mild flavor, it goes perfectly with beef, chicken, sausage, and other vegetables. So you can come up with various stuffing options.
This particular one is my family’s favorite and even the kids love it. These zucchini boats are stuffed with a delicious Italian beef and vegetable mixture and topped with lots of Mozzarella cheese and herbs. For the best tasting beef, I highly recommend using homemade marinara sauce but you can also use your favorite store-bought sauce.
Don’t let the cooking time scare you because this is actually a very easy recipe. You can also cut the cooking time in half to save some time and make the beef stuffing ahead of time. It will be just fine stored in the refrigerator for a day and then all you have to do is hollow out zucchini, stuff, and bake.
Either way you go, make it all at the same time or prepare stuffing before hand, you will have an delicious dinner.
LEARN HOW TO MAKE IT
How to hollow out the zucchini:
I used to have such a hard time with hollowing out the zucchini and that’s because I used to use a spoon. It seems like a no brainer but can proove to be challenging. The spoon doesn’t go through the zucchini center smooth and easy or it would scoop out to much meat instead of just seeds. The most annoying part was when it slipped and cracked the whole side in half.
There is one simple tool that can make this process smooth and painless and that is a melon baller.
Place zucchini in the cutting board and cut off most of the stump. Slice zucchini lengthwise to create two even halves. Try to make the halves as even as possible so cut right in the center. Then, simply use a melon baller to scoop out just the seeded flesh in the center. (If you don’t have a melon baller, you can use a small spoon.)
Make Italian beef filling:
Preheat a cooking pan with olive oil and then add diced onion, carrot, and bell pepper. (You can also chop and add the zucchini flesh that you scooped out and add it with other vegetables.) Saute the vegetables until softened and move them to the sides. Add ground beef to the center and break it up as much as you can. Season the beef and cover the pan with the lid to let it cook. Stir and break down the beef as it cooks.
Once beef is cooked through, pour in marinara sauce. (You can use homemade marinara or your favorite store-bought.) Mix beef and marinara together and then, mix in grated Parmesan cheese.
Prepare the zucchini boats:
Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish. Lay hollowed out zucchini halves side by side, season with some salt, and stuff them generously with beef filling.
Spread shredded Mozzarella cheese all over the stuffed zucchini boats and sprinkle some oregano and parsley over the cheese.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how soft you like the zucchini. If you prefer zucchini to be little crunchy so I keep the bake time around 20 minutes. If you like it softer, then bake it for about 30 minutes but don’t bake it too long or it will be mushy.
CAN I USE GROUND TURKEY INSTEAD OF BEEF?
Yes! You can definitely use ground turkey instead of beef and keep all the rest of the ingredients exactly the same. It will be a lighter and leaner option.
Make sure to store any leftovers in the refrigerator and you can use the original baking dish. Do cover the dish with an air-tight lid or plastic wrap. Properly stores, zucchini boats should last 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
It’s easy to reheat individual or several at the same time in the microwave. Make sure to use microwave-safe dishes and cover the boats with a microwave lid while reheating. If you don’t have a lid, use a wide bowl and turn it upside-down to cover.
Can I freeze it?
Technically, yes, you can freeze zucchini boats. Personally, I don’t like to do that because when zucchini is frozen and then thawed, it’s very soft and mushy. Even if you don’t bake it until it’s soft, it will still loose it’s crispiness when thawed.
WHAT SIDES WOULD GO WELL WITH THIS DISH?
If you want something light, salad and other vegetables will compliment this dish nicely. I think my Italian roasted asparagus, roasted cauliflower, or Parmesan roasted Brussels sprouts will go well here.
If you want something hearty but still healthier, mashed cauliflower would be my number one choice.
For the most comforting sides, go with hashbrown casserole, mashed potatoes, or buttery pasta.
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Italian Beef Zucchini Boats
- 3 medium zucchini
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 lb ground beef 90/10
- 1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.
- Dice onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Smash and mince garlic cloves.
- Preheat a cooking pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add diced onion, carrot, and bell pepper. (You can also chop and add the zucchini flesh scooped out of zucchini halves.)
- Saute the vegetables until softened and move them to the sides. Add ground beef to the center and break it up as much as you can. Season the beef with salt and red pepper flakes and cover the pan with the lid to let it cook. Stir and break down the beef as it cooks.
- When beef is cooked through, pour in marinara sauce. (You can use homemade marinara or your favorite store-bought.)
- Mix beef and marinara together and then mix in grated Parmesan cheese.
- Take off heat and set aside.
Hollow out the zucchini:
- Place zucchini in the cutting board and cut off most of the stem. Slice zucchini lengthwise to create two even halves. Try to make the halves as even as possible so cut right in the center.
- Use a melon baller to scoop out just the seeded flesh in the center. (If you don’t have a melon baller, use a small spoon.)
Prepare zucchini boats:
- Lay hollowed out zucchini halves side by side and season inside the boats with some salt.
- Stuff them generously with beef filling.
- Spread shredded Mozzarella cheese all over the stuffed zucchini boats and sprinkle some oregano and parsley over the cheese.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how soft you like the zucchini.
I used yellow squash as that’s what I had on hand and needed to use up, but otherwise followed the recipe as written. It was absolutely delicious and so easy to make! Definitely will be a repeat meal in our house. I’m so happy to have found your blog and am looking forward to making more of your recipes.
Thank you, Sue! We are so happy to have you here! I hope you enjoy everything you try!