Time for another stuffed veggie recipe! This time with an Italian theme – Italian Stuffed Zucchini. This is a pretty natural pairing if you ask me. So many Italian dishes already include zucchini, why not use it as the base for a yummy meat and tomato filling? With Italian themed spices, of course!
This recipe is pretty simple, and comes together quickly. To cut back on the final baking time, pre-bake the zucchini halves while you are making up the filling. Dinner gets on the table that much faster! (See notes in recipe.)
One of my favorite things about this stuffed zucchini recipe is that you can easily prep all components at once. Once they are prepared, simply combine for the final bake.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I try to do too many tasks in the kitchen at once it doesn’t always go well… Inevitably something ends up burned, or boiling over, or even left out of the recipe! I generally do much better getting everything prepped ahead of time, and then doing the cooking. It makes for less stress too 🙂 But for this recipe, you can cook the sausage and sauce at the same time, and even pre-cook the zucchini too!
This recipe can also work for a Medifast lean and green!
Just make these couple simple changes:
- Leave out the tomato paste
- Reduce the onion to 2 tablespoons
- Use a low fat cheese, at 1oz/serving
Your lean and green breakdown would be as follows:
- One green = half zucchini
- Two greens = tomato sauce with arugula
- One lean = 4oz turkey sausage and 1oz low fat cheese
Voila! Lean and green!
If you like these types of recipes, i.e. a veggie used as a container for a hearty meat-and-other-veggie filling, then check out my stuffed Acorn Squash and Eggplant recipes for some more ideas. Veggies-on-veggies! 🙂
- Baking dish or cookie sheet
- Saute pan
- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (drained and juices reserved)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp EVOO
- ½ yellow onion (diced)
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1½ cup arugula (chopped, optional)
- ½ cup carrots (diced, optional)
- ¼ cup celery (diced, optional)
- 1 large egg (whisked, or 4 tablespoons liquid egg whites)
- 2 sweet Italian turkey sausage links (~4oz each)
- 1 large zucchini (or 2 medium)
- Crushed red pepper (to taste)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 oz Parmesean Reggiano (grated)
- ¼ cup chopped parsley (optional, to garnish)
Preheat Oven to 375°F
Prep the Zucchini
- Cut the zucchini(s) in half, and scoop out the seedy flesh inside. You should still have about 1/4 inch of zucchini flesh (without seeds) left.
- Set aside.
- For a faster final cook time, see notes.
- Brown the sausage, stirring well while it cooks so it breaks into small pieces.
- If you’d like a little spice, add crushed red pepper to the sausage while it is cooking.
- While the sausage is browning…
- In a small sauce pan, saute the diced onion with a pinch of salt until it starts to turn transparent (not cooked all the way through). If using diced carrots and celery, add them in to saute with the onion as well.
- Add the garlic, and stir about 30 seconds.
- Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste.
- Stir often, adding in reserved juice from the diced tomatoes to keep the mixture a thick, saucy texture.
- While cooking the tomato sauce, season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper until it tastes good 🙂
- Cook until the tomatoes are softened, and you can smash them slightly. You also want a “cooked” tomato flavor to come through.
- Stir in the arugula, and cook just until wilted.
- Add in the egg white (or egg), along with the browned sausage.
- Stir in quickly so as to get the egg mixed in well. (You are just using the egg for a little extra binding/thickening, so you don't want it to cook and scramble, as would happen if you were to pour it into the pan and let it cook before mixing into the sauce.)
Fill and Bake
- Scoop the tomato/meat filling into the zucchini halves.
- Place into a baking dish with a small amount of water at the bottom.
- Cover with foil, and bake at 375°F until the zucchini is tender when poked with a fork. If using a large zucchini, this takes about 50 minutes.
- Uncover, top with Parmesan, and continue baking until cheese is melted and browned, about 5 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.
- Let cool slightly, and serve!
- Prep the zucchini about an hour ahead: Slice in half lengthwise, score the flesh, sprinkle with salt, and let drain in a colander in the sink. After about an hour, rinse well and pat dry. This salting step is optional, but helps get some moisture out of the zucchini so that it will cook up faster.
- After rinsing, pre-bake the zucchini in the oven while you are cooking the sauce. Once the sauce is ready, pull the zucchini from the oven, scoop out any seedy pith from the center, fill with the meat sauce, and return stuffed zucchini to the oven to finish baking as instructed.
- If your zucchini is already soft, and the meat sauce is hot, then you can just top off with the cheese and final broiling step, and you are ready to serve!