These delicious stuffed zucchini boats with ground beef, pork, or turkey mixed with your favorite pasta sauce and cheese. Every bite of this meaty, cheesy stuffed zucchini boat recipe is so good and so satisfying.
I actually got this zucchini boat recipe from my son, Patrick. He brought it to me a few years back while he was in high school and asked me if I could make it. I can’t remember where he got it, I just know it tastes amazing. Use any kind of ground meat you like and whatever cheese you have on hand to make these delicious, meaty stuffed zucchinis. We usually use mozzarella and cheddar, but anything works.
I make this recipe all the time when our zucchini crop comes into season. I love to cook with zucchini, so we plant a lot of it. From these tasty zucchini boats to breads, muffins, and even lasagna, when our harvest comes in, it’s all zucchini all the time. That’s great because we love the flavor, and recipes like this one are one of the reasons that we love to grow so much zucchini!
No, this recipe doesn’t contain coffee creamer. Stuffed squash is enjoyed across the globe. In fact, it originated in Europe and Asia. Almost every country across the globe has some variation of stuffed squash, from hot varieties to room temperature or warm variants. Across Europe and Asia, you’ll wind squash stuffed with items like rice, meat, and even nuts.
Of course, here in North America, we’re never satisfied with a classic. We always have to go the extra mile. Since its introduction to the USA in the 1920s, almost certainly by Italian immigrants, the zucchini has been cooked in a variety of ways, including stuffed.
Over the years, cooks have thought up all kinds of things to stuff into zucchini. You’ll find stuffed zucchini boats filled with everything from spaghetti to taco meat and everything in between. If it can be spooned into a hollowed out zucchini, it probably has been.
My stuffed zucchini boats with ground beef, pork, or turkey are basically zucchinis filled with meatsauce, and they are so, so good.
The Perfect Dinner
This stuffed zucchini boat recipe is the perfect dinner no matter what day of the week it is. It’s easy to make, it’s hearty, and it even has veggies – the zucchini boat. It’s a filling meal that ticks all the boxes. It’s so good, the whole family will be begging for more, and it’s so easy to make, you’ll be happy to do it for them. In fact, this recipe is so easy, I find myself opting to use my zucchini for this much more often than I do for more involved recipes like zucchini bread.
This recipe is basically a veggie boat stuffed full of spaghetti sauce and cheese, so it tends to be a crowd-please, satisfying even the pickest of eaters.
Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Ground Beef
This stuffed zucchini boat recipe only takes a few basic ingredients to make, and it’s made even simpler by using your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. All the classic meat sauce ingredients you know and love are cooked up and mixed with spaghetti sauce to create a delicious meat sauce that goes perfectly with the zucchini.
- Zucchini cut lengthwise
- Olive oil
- Finely chopped onion
- Minced garlic
- Ground beef, pork, sausage, chicken, or turkey
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Shredded cheese
- Tomato based pasta sauce
- Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper
That’s all you need. These ingredients all cook up quickly and come together to create a delicious sauce topped with melty cheese that everyone will love when it’s spooned into your zucchini boats.
Making the Stuffed Zucchini Boat Recipe
Making these stuffed zucchini boats is as easy as the ingredient list. It only takes about 6 minutes to cook up the meat mixture, and the rest of the work consists of scooping the seeds out of the zucchini, filling it with the sauce, and baking it up. It really is so simple. These are the highlights of the recipe. For the full instructions, see the recipe card at the end of the post.
- Cook the onion, garlic, and ground meat.
- Mix the cheeses together. Set some of the cheese aside and add the rest to the meat mixture along with the sauce and Italian seasoning.
- Remove the seeds and pulp from the zucchini halves.
- Add the meat mixture, top with remaining cheese, and bake.
That’s all there is to it! Of course, the full recipe requires a bit more work, but it’s minimal. The entire process takes about a half an hour from start to baking. Then baking takes another half hour. It’s fast, easy, and delicious, and you can’t beat that!
Stuffed Zucchini Boat Recipe Tips
There are a few things to be aware of that will help you make the tastiest stuffed zucchini boats possible. They’re small but important tidbits that you’ll want to know before you start making this recipe.
Don’t Peel the Zucchini
A lot of people simply peel any vegetable that they cook with by rote, but you do not want to peel the zucchini for this recipe. First of all, the baking process will make the skin nice and tender, so it’s easy to eat. Secondly, without the skin, the entire thing would just fall apart.
Don’t Overcook the Meat Mixture
You’re not looking to caramelize the onions in this recipe, and you certainly don’t want to burn your garlic. Only cook your meat mixture until the meat is fully cooked and the onions and garlic are soft.
Be Careful When Scooping Out the Zucchini
Zucchinis are a soft vegetable, and it’s very easy to scoop out too much if you aren’t careful. The goal here is to simply remove the seeds and pulp. Use a light touch to ensure that you only remove the seeds and pulp and that you leave all that delicious zucchini right where it’s supposed to be.
Because this recipe is simply a kind of squash cut in half and filled with meat sauce, it is very open to interpretation. Of course, I’d love for you to try this recipe as-is at least once, but there are tons of ways you can mix it up to make it your own.
Use Different Meats
You can use any kind of ground meat you like in this recipe. I usually use beef, but anything goes really. If you’re trying to cut down on fat, try using ground chicken or turkey. If you prefer your sauce with a little extra zing, try using Italian sausage. Ground pork also works very well in this recipe.
Use Different Sauces
You can use any kind of tomato based sauce you want in this recipe, and they’ll all add a different flare to it. Choose a traditional tomato spaghetti sauce or try a marinara sauce. There are tons of fun sauce options at your grocery store. They have everything from vodka sauce to mushroom lover spaghetti sauce, roasted pepper sauce, and much more. Try them all for a bit of a different flavor every time you make this recipe.
Use Different Shredded Cheeses
Like everything else in this recipe, you can use any kind of shredded cheese that strikes your fancy. Of course, some will work better than others. For example, I use primarily mozzarella for this recipe. That being said, you can feel free to experiment with all kinds of shredded cheese from cheddar to Mexican blends and everything in between. Frankly, there’s no cheese that isn’t delicious, in my opinion.
Serving Stuffed Zucchini Boats
I generally don’t serve anything with this stuffed zucchini boat recipe except a side salad. These are a complete meal in and of themselves. All the major food groups are here. The zucchini is a vegetable, the beef is protein, and there are more veggies in the sauce mix. That’s what makes it so easy and so great to cook. It’s an entire meal, so you don’t need to add a bunch of other sides. In fact, it would be too much food if you did.
Storing the Zucchini Boats
This stuffed zucchini boat recipe will keep well in the refrigerator for about 4 days in an air-tight container. They’re easy to reheat, as well. Just pop them in the microwave.
For longer storage, you can freeze these zucchini boats in an air-tight, freezer-safe container or in heavy-duty freezer bags. Allow the leftovers to cool completely and then place them in your container or freezer bags. That’s it. Both the meat sauce and the zucchini freeze very well, so there’s no need to worry.
Don’t leave these stuffed zucchini boats in the freezer for longer than a couple of months, however, as their quality will deteriorate. They won’t be dangerous, they just won’t be as good.
Before you jump into making these tasty stuffed zucchini boats there are a few things to remember. Read over the FAQ to get the highlights.
Q: What kind of meat should I use in the sauce for this recipe:
A: You can use any kind of ground meat. Beef, pork, Italian sausage, and even chicken or turkey all work well.
Q: What kind of sauce should I use for this recipe?
A: You can use any kind of sauce you like, providing it’s tomato-based.
Q: What kind of cheese works best with this recipe?
A: You can use any kind of shredded cheese, but I’ve found that white cheeses tend to have the best flavor when combined with the sauce.
Q: Can I make substitutions?
A: Yes! That’s the best part about this recipe. You can make as few or as many changes as you want. Change the sauce, the meat, the cheese. Change one or all of them. Get creative.
Q: How long will these zucchini boats last?
A: These stuffed zucchini boats with ground beef will last for about 4 days in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. You can freeze them for about 2 months in an air-tight, freezer-safe container or a heavy-duty freezer bag.
Give These Stuffed Zucchini Boats a Try
These stuffed zucchini boats are delicious and so easy to make. All it takes is a few minutes of cooking the meat and about half an hour of baking to create this tasty dinner meal. It’s so delicious and so easy that it makes the perfect dinner any day of the week.
Try making this recipe for you and your family, and I’m sure you’ll all agree that it’s a real winner. And after you’ve made it my way, start getting creative. Mix it up by using different meats, cheeses, and sauces in any combination you like to create stuffed zucchini boats that are truly your own. They’re so much fun and so easy, you have to give them a try.
Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, then cut in half lengthwise, 8 inch
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 4 tblsp garlic, minced
- 1/2 pound ground chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, ground pork, or, ground sausage
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1/3 cup cheese, shredded
- 1/3 cup tomato based pasta sauce -
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning -
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Get out and measure all of your ingredients.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ground meat. Cook together 4 to 6 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are softened and the meat is cooked through.
- In a small bowl, mix the cheeses together. Remove four heaping tablespoons of the cheese and set aside. Add the rest of the cheese to the meat mixture, along with the marinara sauce and Italian seasoning. Add salt and pepper, as desired. Mix well.
- Use a small spoon to scrape out the insides of each zucchini half - the seeds and pulp. Make a valley to hold the stuffing! Pat inside of the zucchini with paper towel.
- Brush lightly with olive oil.
- Divide the meat mixture between the zucchinis.
- Filling each one.
- Put the stuffed zucchinis onto the prepared pan and sprinkle the reserved cheese on top.
- Bake 30 minutes.
- Or until baked through and tender.
- Enjoy every bite.