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Stuffed Zucchini are quintessential summer fare, when the zucchini harvest abounds at farm stands and backyard gardens alike. Filled with a chunky mixture of savory ingredients, this recipe screams freshness and brightness to all. If you have yet to make and try them, this is your chance! Read on for a classic, simple and delicious, plant-based recipe that will be the hit at your next dinner party!
I will never forget my first Stuffed Zucchini. It was 1996 in Umbria, a land-locked region in central Italy, and I was on a one-week, hands-on “cookery holiday” with a British chef on a converted farm. (This was a couple years before I went to cooking school and became a food industry professional.) I was an expat living and working as a CPA in Geneva, Switzerland, and finally had enough money to “go to Italy and cook”—something that I had wanted to do for years. That week in spring was unforgettable. We cooked as a group multiple times a day, visited local towns and markets, and ate and drank until our heart’s content. It was the funnest group of people, with open hearts and big appetites for life.
One of the meals that we cooked was all different types of stuffed vegetables—peppers, onions, eggplant, tomatoes and these zucchini. (Only, they were called stuffed courgettes by the Brits…) We ate and drank for hours that day under the Italian sun, in the heat of late spring.
While Stuffed Zucchini recipes are not in short supply, can contain lots of different ingredients and can be made with a variety of cooking techniques, this recipe is fairly straightforward. It simply uses the chopped shavings from the inside of the zucchini, along with some onion, garlic, basil, sun-dried tomato and lemon, as the stuffing. And, there is no pre-cooking of the zucchini shells needed—just chop, sauté, stuff, bake and eat! Don’t forget the lemon—it adds significant brightness and zestiness to the dish.
Round or Long?
This Stuffed Zucchini recipe can be made with any variety of the vegetable. I was fortunate to find these beautiful, round zucchini at my local farm stand, and I could not resist buying and using them. But, while this type of zucchini is unique in shape, it is by no means different in flavor from the thin, long type of zucchini, to which we are most accustomed. However, if you see these round zucchini, definitely buy them and make this recipe! They are very easy to hollow out and stuff. And, they are beautiful, to boot!
To make Stuffed Zucchini, we will be using the following ingredients:
- Zucchini: Lots of different varieties of zucchini can be stuffed successfully using this recipe! The most popular type are the long, thin variety that we see everywhere in the summer. Here, I used a fun round shape that I found at my local farm stand. Zucchini’s relatively mild flavor make it a perfect candidate for stuffing and to showcase other, stronger flavors in the dish, such as the sun-dried tomatoes, basil and lemon.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Sun-dried tomatoes increase the overall summery-ness of the dish and also add tons of flavor and umami (i.e., savoriness). For the sun-dried tomato haters out there, artichoke hearts or black olives would be a great substitute.
- Breadcrumbs: The breadcrumbs hold the filling ingredients together and add some heft to the overall mixture. As a final sprinkle on the Stuffed Zucchini just before being roasted, the breadcrumbs add a bit of a savory crunch.
- Lemon Zest: Lemon zest adds LOADS of character to this dish – do not leave it out! In fact, use more than the recipe calls for, if you are so inclined. You will not be sorry!
The Aromatics . . .
- Onions and Garlic: No explanation necessary! Other than to say, finely chopped works best in this recipe.
- Fresh Basil: This adds so much flavor and beautiful brightness to the overall dish.
- Olive Oil: Here, the olive oil is used for sautéing the onions, garlic and zucchini shavings, as well as for topping the final stuffed zucchini before being roasted. I suggest a high-quality, flavorful extra-virgin olive oil for this application.
- Salt and Black Pepper: Always to your taste and always freshly ground black pepper, if possible!
A complete and detailed list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is included in the recipe below.
Step-By-Step, Pro-Tips included!
Here are the main steps for how to make Stuffed Zuccchini:
- Prep and measure all ingredients. Be sure to rinse all vegetables before using. For the zucchini, the technique is slightly different, depending on the shape of the zucchini (long or round). But, the overall goal is to hollow out each zucchini by removing its soft inner flesh, leaving the heartier base in place to be stuffed.
- PRO-TIP: Don’t remove too much of the inside of each zucchini! Remove all of the soft, inside flesh and a bit more. But, be sure to leave enough of the zucchini base to hold the stuffing and hold up during the roasting process (i.e., no holes in the zucchini shells).
- PRO-TIP: If you are using round zucchini, slice off a tiny bit from the bottom of each zucchini so that they will sit still and not roll over causing you lots of frustration.
- Make the filling mixture by sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil with the chopped zucchini flesh, then combining it with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, breadcrumbs and lemon zest.
- Stuff the zucchini shells with the filling.
- Nestle the stuffed zucchini securely in a baking dish, then top them off with a little breadcrumbs and extra-virgin olive oil. Roast, covered, until the zucchini base is tender, then uncovered briefly to brown the tops. That’s it! Enjoy them warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Variations for Stuffed Zucchini
This Stuffed Zucchini recipe is pretty perfect as is, but here are a few ideas for variations on this recipe:
- Add Meat: Ground turkey, chicken or beef or Italian sausage would add lots of protein and heartiness to this recipe and work well.
- Add Cheese: Add some grated Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese for increased savoriness. If you do, cut back on the salt a bit.
- Add Greens: Fold some baby spinach into the stuffing mixture along with the basil. It will wilt and cook in the oven.
- Make it Gluten-Free: This recipe could easily be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free breadcrumbs for the regular breadcrumbs.
What to Serve With Stuffed Zucchini
Stuffed Zucchini works well as either a starter or main course to a light summer meal.
As a starter, I suggest pairing it with a simple grilled main course, such as strip steak, chicken breast or shrimp. If you decide to serve these Stuffed Zucchini as the main course, consider pairing it with a chilled soup for a starter and a light semi-freddo or sorbet for dessert.
Kitchen Tools & Cookware for Stuffed Zucchini
To make this Stuffed Zucchini recipe, you will need the following:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Multiple bowls to hold prep
- Cutting board with non-slip mat underneath (I use shelf liner)
- Sharp chef’s knife
- Grapefruit spoon
- Garlic Press
- Microplane zester
- Dutch oven
- 10″+ sauté pan or skillet
- Nonstick 13 ½” x 9 ½” baking pan
- Parchment paper
- Oven mitts
- Large spoon or turner to remove finished peppers and sauce
- Serving platter and serving utensils
More Great Recipes to Try
If you’ve tried this recipe or any other recipe on the blog, please let me know how it went in the comments below — I love hearing from you!
- 5 zucchini (long or round)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 heaping cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 2 Tbsp chopped or thinly sliced garlic
- 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes + their oil (about 8 tomatoes and 1 Tbsp oil)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs plus more for sprinkling over stuffed zucchini
- Lemon zest from 1 lemon
- To taste salt and black pepper
- Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375◦F. Lightly oil a small, parchment-lined baking dish large enough to snugly fit the zucchini. Set aside.
- Prep all ingredients according to specifications above. If using long zucchini, trim the ends, then cut them in half lengthwise. With either a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon, gently hollow out the zucchini halves by removing the soft inner flesh, making sure to leave the heartier zucchini base in place to be stuffed. This is best done by scraping the spoon towards you along the length of the zucchini while holding it vertically. If using round zucchini, cut off the top stem, then either cut the round bulb in half and scoop out the flesh as described above for the long zucchini, or leave the zucchini bulb whole and scoop out all flesh from above. Rough chop the flesh and set it and the hollowed out zucchini aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions have mostly softened, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the reserved zucchini flesh and continue to cook 4 to 5 minutes or until all residual liquid has evaporated.
- Turn the heat off, then fold in the sun-dried tomatoes and basil, followed by the breadcrumbs and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Carefully fill each dug-out zucchini shell with the zucchini and onion mixture, then nestle the stuffed vegetables in the roasting pan. Top each zucchini with a light sprinkle of additional breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Pour enough water in the roasting pan to fill it about ¼”. Cover the pan with foil, then place it on the middle rack in the oven. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until the flesh of the zucchini base is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Then, uncover and roast an additional 5 to 10 more minutes to brown the Stuffed Zucchini, taking care to not burn them. (NOTE: If the zucchini are large, they may take longer to cook and require additional liquid in the pan. Add more water if necessary so that the baking dish does not dry up and the zucchini start to fry and burn.)
- Remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter. The Stuffed Zucchini can be served either hot or at room temperature. Buon Appetito!
- The zucchini and onion mixture does not have to be 100% cooked as it will continue to cook during the roasting processs.
- The water is added to the roasting pan to help facilitate the cooking of the zucchini shells. Start with a small amount of water, as noted, and add more if needed for larger zucchini. The important thing to note is that the zucchini should not end up frying and burning in the baking dish!
- If you have filling leftover after having stuffed all the zucchini shells, add it to scrambled eggs for a delicious and nutritious egg snack or some freshly grilled bruschetta bread for a savory, impromptu antipasti!