I have my mom to thank for this one, guys.
She described this meal to me when we were on the phone the other week, when we were talking about different ways to prepare zucchini, and I knew I had to try it. She herself actually was inspired by one of her friends, who’d told her about a similar recipe. The general idea is to create a boat: taking zucchini, scooping out the middle, and filling it with some combination of tomatoes, beef, and cheese, and then bake it in the oven. Through a somewhat elaborate game of recipe telephone, I arrived at this gem. These particular “boats” are certainly weeknight and budget-friendly, since you’re likely to find most ingredients already in your pantry. It’s also so dang healthy and hearty, with has everything you could want packed right in.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the artistic capacity to carve the zucchini into the shape of an actual boat.
That would be quite the feat. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet reached that point in my self-taught culinary journey. However, if you’re willing to use your imagination a little, then you’ll be fine! Start by slicing the zucchini in half lengthwise and use a pairing knife to cut out the centre. This is a bit of a challenge, but bear with me. As long as you scoop most of it out, you’re good. I then re-purpose the zucchini innards in my tomato-meat-sauce-filling, where they magically disappear through the power of evaporation, leaving you its goodness, but without infringing on the precious real estate in the sauce.
Next, take take your emptied, (now) roasted zucchini, and fill them with that luscious sauce. Don’t worry – this part is supposed to be messy. It feels disingenuous to pretend otherwise. Sprinkle on some cheese (a must), put those bad boys back in the oven for a few more minutes and presto!
You’ll hardly miss the carbs when you dig into this filling, satisfying meal!
Hint: Like my Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino Zoodles, this is a great recipe to make if you’ve got a lot of zucchini on hand (tis the season, after all!)
- 4 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 c. marinara
- ¼ c. shredded Parmesan cheese
- ¼ c. shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°
- Using a small pairing knife, cut out the middle of the zucchini, until there is only about ¼" flesh left inside (it's ok if you can't get all the flesh out, as long as the zucchini is mostly emptied). Roughly chop the remaining flesh and set aside.
- Rub the inside of the zucchini halves with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
- Place zucchini face-down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tender.
- In the meantime, heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes, until translucent.
- Add chopped garlic and zucchini and sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Raise the heat to medium-high. Push veggies to the edges of the skillet and add ground beef to the centre, using a wooden spoon to break it down into small chunks.
- Brown meat until cooked, about 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add marinara sauce and stir, making sure everything is incorporated.
- Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
- Once the zucchini is cooked, lower oven temperature to 350°. Allow zucchini to cool for 5 minutes before filling each half with sauce and placing back on the baking sheet.
- Top zucchini with cheese.
- Bake in oven for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.