This Italian sausage-stuffed zucchini boats recipe is a hearty meal that’s perfect for summer! It won’t weigh you down, and you get your protein and veggies at the same time. You can serve multiple zucchini boats as an entree, or serve one as a tasty side dish! The recipe can easily be made gluten-free.
Zucchini boats might just be one of my new favorite summer dinners. You get your protein and veggies at the same time, and the meal is substantial and filling without being even remotely heavy.
I’ve made this several times now, and it’s officially going into the regular dinner rotation!
- Spicy Italian sausage (I’m a big fan of Meatcrafters)
- Poblano or bell pepper (I like using poblanos for a subtle kick)
- Yellow onion
- Mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Italian-style breadcrumbs (regular or gluten-free)
- Sheet pan
- Parchment paper or foil
- Melon baller
- Etc: knife, cutting board, measuring cups & spoons, bowl, spatula
How to Make Zucchini Boats
Step 1: use a melon baller to Scoop the zucchini
The first time I tried to do this, I treated the zucchini like a cucumber. I halved it lengthwise and then tried using a spoon to scrape out the seeds.
My friends, do not do this. Raw zucchini is much more firm than cucumber! It took forever, and my spoon was flying all over the place. There may have been cursing.
Halfway through, I realized I was being an idiot and switched to a melon baller. It was so much easier and faster. A few tips I figured out along the way:
- Use the larger side of the melon baller for the thick end, then switch to the smaller side as you get near the stem. If you don’t have a melon baller, you can use a rounded measuring spoon.
- The more zucchini you remove, the more room there will be for filling. However, the zucchini tastes great with the filling, so there’s no need to go overboard.
- You can go back in and fine tune the shape, but don’t worry about the edges being exact. Once the filling is added and the zucchini boats are baked, they’ll look perfect.
Step 2: Combine the filling ingredients
The only ingredient that needs to be prepped is the sausage. You can purchase pre-cooked sausage to save a step, but cooking raw sausage in a sauté pan is easy. That should take around 5 minutes (or a bit longer if you use a nonstick pan).
Once the sausage is cooked, toss it in a bowl with the remaining ingredients (I recommend letting it cool first so the cheese doesn’t get messy).
Step 3: Stuff the zucchini, then bake
Zucchini can vary quite a bit in size, so you might find yourself with some leftover filling. It’s also possible you might find yourself coming up a bit short.
Tips for dealing with too much or too little filling:
- The filling will shrink down a bit in the oven, so don’t be shy about packing it into the zucchini. You can press it down (gently, to avoid breaking the zucchini), and you can also pile it up on top like a loaded potato.
- You can also stuff an additional zucchini half, if you have one, and bake it along with the rest.
- If you find yourself short of stuffing, sprinkle on some additional cheese and breadcrumbs.
Recipe Substitutions and Variations
This stuffed zucchini recipe is very flexible. Here are a few ways you can tweak the recipe:
- Try using panko breadcrumbs instead of Italian-style. You can also omit them entirely for less carbohydrates.
- I use yellow onions (they’re the best type of onion for all-purpose cooking), but most varieties should work fine here. Use what you have.
- I used a poblano pepper for subtle heat, but you can swap it out for a bell pepper of your choice (red, green, etc). If you can’t find poblano peppers, you can use bell peppers along with hot peppers like jalapeños or serranos.
- I haven’t tried this with other sausage varieties, but it’s hard to imagine this not being equally delicious with andouille or even chorizo (I’d use plain breadcrumbs with chorizo).
How to Reheat
To be honest, I always just nuke these in the microwave. Place on a microwave-safe plate, cover, and heat for 1-2 minutes. It’s easy, but the topping loses some of it’s texture in the microwave.
The other option is to place on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F until warmed through (I’m guessing 10-15 minutes).
More Zucchini Recipes
If you love this recipe, be sure to check out my Zucchini Lasagna, Warm Zucchini Salad, and Grilled Zucchini Salad with Feta and Sweet Croutons.
You can also see my full archive of zucchini recipes here!
Italian Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 9 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
- 4 medium or large zucchini (see notes)
- 1 large poblano pepper, diced (bell pepper may be substituted)
- 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella (see notes)
- 1/2 cup parmesan (see notes)
- 1/3 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs (use gluten-free breadcrumbs for a GF recipe)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Place an oven rack on the center shelf, then preheat the oven to 400 degrees Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.
- Set a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sausage and cook, using a spatula to break up the meat into small pieces, until fully cooked (Notes: you can turn the heat up to medium once there’s fat in the pan. Will take around 5-6 minutes, or 10-12 with a nonstick skillet). Drain any excess fat through a fine mesh strainer and discard, then set aside to cool.
- Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller to scoop out the center of the zucchini. The more zucchini you remove, the more room there will be for filling. However, the zucchini tastes great with the filling, so there's no need to go overboard. Place the zucchini on the prepared sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the sausage, poblano pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, parsley, mozzarella, parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Give it a good stir to make sure all the breadcrumbs don’t fall to the bottom.
- Stuff the filling into the zucchini, gently packing it in as much as possible. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the zucchini is fork-tender.
- Serve 2-3 zucchini boats as an entree, or 1 as a side dish. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and enjoy within 3 days.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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