Italian and Southwestern Zucchini Boats

Ever try something that is so perfectly ready for adaptation that you instantly begin dreaming of ways to make it better?  A chocolate chip cookie leads you to a dark chocolate cherry cookie.  Or a piece of pumpkin pie leads you to spiced sweet potato pie.  Well, that was my experience with zucchini boats.  So versatile.  So healthy.  So easy.  So many possibilities!

Southwest Zucchini Boats

Zucchini makes a perfect vessel for a variety of fillings.  The insides of the zucchini are easy to scoop out, leaving a sturdy shell that is just asking to be heaped full of delicious goodness.  Choose from an Italian filling with tomato sauce, peppers and topped with mozzarella cheese or a Southwestern filling with black beans, green chilies and topped with cheddar cheese (and sour cream!).  With all these flavor combos, you will never again be screaming “What can I do with all this zucchini?!?!”

scooped out zucchini

This dish is so versatile that you can really come up with any flavor combo you like.  Start with some ground meat.  I use lean turkey but you could easily use beef, pork or lamb.  Pick your favorite veggies (onions, peppers, chilies, tomatoes).  Then add some appropriate spices.  The trick to getting the filling to stay together is to add a single beaten egg to the mix before baking it.  This helps bind everything together and keeps your filling from getting too runny.

italian fillingsouthwest filling

Many people like to work the zucchini insides (the part that is scraped out to make the zucchini shells) back into the filling before stuffing the boats.  I didn’t with these recipes, but if you are trying to get more veggies in your diet or are trying to stretch the filling for as many boats as possible, add it back in.

stuffed southwest zucchini boats

The filling can be made a day or two in advance, just don’t add the egg until just before baking. Speaking from experience, I can say that any leftover filling can be reheated to make a wonderful lunch the next day.  Just be sure to give any leftover filling a quick saute in the pan before packing it away to cook the raw egg!

italian zucchini boats

The beauty of this dish is that the while baking, the zucchini becomes soft yet retains its shape.  It’s moist, delicious and a perfect way to get all that yummy filling into your mouth.  I like to leave a bit of each end on the zucchini while baking.  I think it helps them maintain their shape and I just cut them off before eating.  If you would rather remove the ends before baking, that’s fine as well.  Whatever floats your …. zucchini boat!

sour cream zucchini boats

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Italian and Southwestern Zucchini Boats

Ingredients-

For Italian Zucchini Boats:
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 medium white or sweet onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (or a combination of parsley, oregano and basil)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4-5 medium-sized zucchini
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

For Southwestern Zucchini Boats:
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 medium white or sweet onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8 oz) can diced green chilies
1 (15 oz) can fire roasted diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil
1 egg, beaten
4-5 medium-sized zucchini
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions-

For Italian Zucchini Boats:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat with enough olive oil to coat the pan (roughly 2 tablespoons). Add diced onion and pepper. Saute a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add garlic. Saute another minute, until fragrant.
- Add ground turkey. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the turkey and combine with the onion mixture. Cook until meat is browned.
- Add mushrooms and tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes). Stir to combine. Add italian seasoning or spices. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
- Continue cooking the filling until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has thickened a bit. Once thickened, remove from heat and allow to partially cool.
- In the meantime, slice each zucchini lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the insides of each zucchini half, leaving a shell that is roughly 1/4 inch thick all the way around. Place zucchini shells in a large baking dish that is filled with 1/4 inch water.
- Once the filling has cooled, stir in the Parmesan cheese and beaten egg.
- Scoop the filling into the empty zucchini shells.
- Carefully place the baking dish into the oven (careful not to spill the water!) and bake for 25-20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

For Southwestern Zucchini Boats:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat with enough olive oil to coat the pan (roughly 2 tablespoons). Add diced onion and pepper. Saute a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add garlic. Saute another minute, until fragrant.
- Add ground turkey. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the turkey and combine with the onion mixture. Cook until meat is browned.
- Add green chilies, black beans and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Continue cooking the filling until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has thickened a bit. Once thickened, remove from heat and allow to partially cool.
- In the meantime, slice each zucchini lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the insides of each zucchini half, leaving a shell that is roughly 1/4 inch thick all the way around. Place zucchini shells in a large baking dish that is filled with 1/4 inch water.
- Once the filling has cooled, stir in beaten egg.
- Scoop the filling into the empty zucchini shells.
- Carefully place the baking dish into the oven (careful not to spill the water!) and bake for 25-20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
- Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve!

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15 Responses to “Italian and Southwestern Zucchini Boats”

  1. 1
    Joanne — June 22, 2010 8:55 pm

    I have to say, I love how versatile these are! It seems like you could pick just about any flavor profile and find a filling to go with it.

  2. 2
    CaSaundra — June 22, 2010 10:30 pm

    Wow, these both look amazing! I am a huge fan of stuffing foods!
    I might actually add these to the menu to serve at work–now to
    decide which one!! :-)

  3. 3
    Fallon — June 23, 2010 12:58 am

    Mm I haven’t had stuffed zucchinis in a long time. My father use to make them with a potato filling. I like that you used ground turkey, lean fat and protein! Can’t wait to try these out.

  4. 4
    Dawn Hutchins — June 23, 2010 11:09 am

    Wow these look like they are right up my alley. I love all the fresh zucchini available now.

  5. 5
    Mary — June 23, 2010 11:13 am

    What a great post! Thanks for this – I can’t wait to try it! This has been bookmarked!!!

    xxMK
    Delightful Bitefuls

  6. 6

    I made zucchini boats last summer sometime and we loved them-thanks for the reminder :)

  7. 7
    Cara — June 24, 2010 9:23 am

    I love zucchini boats! hoping for luck with my first-ever garden so I can enjoy lots of them :)

  8. 8
    redmenace — June 25, 2010 1:47 pm

    What a coincidence! I was just working out at the gym and dreaming of zucchini boats. Then, I came home and read this. On the same wave length, I guess. Thanks for the wonderful recipes!

  9. 9
    Simply Life — June 28, 2010 4:11 pm

    What a great idea -these look delicious!

  10. 10
    Audrey — June 29, 2010 3:15 pm

    I made the southwestern ones last night with one large yellow zucchini and it was very delish!

  11. 11
    alina — July 22, 2010 4:45 pm

    I made these last night and had leftovers for lunch – they are delicious! I saved all of the zucchini flesh and will make something out of that tonight. Thank you for such a great recipe!

  12. 12
    LordJezo — July 23, 2010 8:00 am

    Why not mix the zucchini right in with the meat and spices? There is no reason to let all that good zucchini meat go to waste.

    We made the southwestern one last night with a monster vegetable from my garden. They were delicious.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lordjezo/4819662902/

    • kate replied: — July 23rd, 2010 8:09 pm

      LordJezo — There really isn’t a good reason not to mix the scraped out zucchini into the filling. I just prefer a more meaty tasting filling so I leave it out, but it’s delicious mixed in as well.

  13. 13

    Hi Kate, This is a great blog you have here! I made the Southwestern Zucchini Boats tonight, and they were fantastic! I plan on trying the Italian version soon and posting about both on my own blog, with credit to you of course. Keep up the great work on your blog – I’ll be checking back often to keep up with more of your fantastic recipes!

  14. 14
    Jessie — August 30, 2010 12:33 pm

    thanks for sharing! i’m definitely going to try these tonight.

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