Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Pasta Sauce

Summer is a great time of the year to load up meals with fresh, seasonal vegetables such as zucchini and yellow squash. The quality of fresh picked vegetables is excellent and the price is usually inexpensive. But what if you don’t like summer squash? In searching for ideas to use a huge zucchini growing in my garden, I found a recipe which is absolutely delicious. Zucchini is a mild flavored squash and this recipe tones the flavor down even further by stuffing the zucchini with a meat mixture and topping it with pasta sauce. It is a good way to learn to like a new food and is the best recipe I’ve found in a long time.

I love early spring and summer months, when all the tiny transplants in my garden finally produce some vegetables. The effort is worth it. One particular zucchini stayed hidden among the leaves and missed detection. It weighted 1 lb and 12 oz when I found and picked it. That’s enough for several meals.

Zucchini is mild in taste and it blends well with other ingredients and seasonings. I like recipes where zucchini is sauteed with herbs and onions or breaded and fried or roast in the oven with olive oil and seasonings. After much deliberation, I decided to stuff the zucchini with ground meat, onions and cheese, top it with pasta sauce and bake it. I served the dish with pasta.

Recipe

Since my zucchini was so large, I cut it into crosswise pieces, each round about 1-1/2 inch in length. For this recipe, two rounds made a serving. I doubt that you’ll find such a large zucchini in the produce market, so use medium sized zucchini squash, half lengthwise and scoop out the centers to make zucchini “boats” to stuff.

I used an ice cream scoop to hollow out the center of each raw zucchini round. Save the pulp and add it to the pasta sauce, if you wish. Or use the pulp in other recipes.

I stuffed the rounds with a mixture of browned ground meat, onions and shredded Mozzarella cheese.

Homemade pasta sauce

I have concocted a recipe for an excellent pasta sauce. My homemade tomato sauce complements the zucchini nicely and adds Italian flavors. This sauce is a savory blend of crushed tomatoes, onions and garlic, Italian-flavored herbs–oregano, thyme and basil — and a touch of salt, pepper and sugar. It is simple to make and I use the sauce for many recipes — including homemade pizza sauce.

To make the sauce, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil, then stir in the other ingredients and let the sauce simmer on the stove for half an hour or longer.

Top the zucchini rounds (or boats) with the sauce, cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes until the squash is tender.  With these large rounds, it takes a while to cook the squash.

Serve the stiffed zucchini with pasta.

The stuffed zucchini and pasta make an entire meal. The flavors blend together quite well and it is a great way to learn to like this versatile vegetable. Hope you will enjoy it!

Stuffed Zucchini

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb zucchini squash (2 very large squash or 3 large ones or 6 small to medium squash)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 recipe of homemade pasta sauce
  • cooked pasta
  • dried parsley for garnish (optional)

Method and Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, oil 9 x 13′ casserole dish.
  2. If using 2 very large zucchini, cut squash crosswise into 1-1/2 inch rounds (6 rounds per squash making 2 rounds per serving). If using large or small to medium squash, cut in half lengthwise to make boats, (1/2 large squash per serving or 2 halves of small to medium squash per serving).
  3. Using an ice cream scoop or fork, scoop pulp out of center of squash to make a shell. Set aside. Optional, chop zucchini pulp and add to homemade sauce (at beginning of making sauce). Or reserve zucchini pulp for another recipe.
  4. In large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef and chopped onion until meat is cooked and onion is translucent.
  5. Stir in shredded mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of pasta sauce.
  6. Divide ground beef mixture evenly among zucchini rounds or boats.
  7. Place stuffed zucchini in casserole dish. Cover with remaining pasta sauce.
  8. Cover casserole tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven until zucchini is tender, about 40 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven. Serve with cooked pasta, sprinkle with dried parsley for garnish, if desired.

Homemade Pasta Sauce

  • Servings: 4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Optional: pulp of zucchini, finely chopped, if making stuffed zucchini
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • dash red pepper flakes, optional

Method and Steps:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Add onion and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add garlic cloves and zucchini pulp (optional), stir and saute for about 5 additional minutes.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and all the seasonings (oregano, thyme, basil, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. optional). Briefly increase heat to high to bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  4. Then reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  5. Use sauce with stuffed zucchini, serve with pasta or use as a topping on pizza.

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