I have another confession.
I don’t love vegetables. Odd, because I have a garden, right? I like them enough, some more than others, but I don’t think I could ever be a vegetarian. And zucchini? Well, let’s just say I’m learning to love it.
But I have this garden, into which I’ve put a lot of time, effort, and expense, and I should probably eat what I’m growing, don’t you think? In general, I only grow what I like and when it comes to zucchini, I think I’ve always liked it as an ingredient more than the focus of the meal.
But my zucchini plant has a way of getting the last laugh on me. Not only has it been generous in its gifts to me, a few of its fruits have hidden themselves among the leaves until they just got too big not to be noticed. I ended up with more than a few 2-3 lb specimens.
What to do with these monster squash?
I could have made zucchini bread, but that wouldn’t have solved the issue of what to do with all the other vegetables in my garden. And because this girl cannot live on veggies alone, I had to add in some tasty pork product.
Stuffed Zucchini with Italian Sausage
Click here for printable recipe
1 large zucchini (2-3 lbs) plus 1/2 cup diced (optional)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced bell peppers (I used red and yellow ones)
1/2 cup eggplant, diced
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz Italian Sausage, removed from casings (use the spicy ones for a kick)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
fresh basil, 2 Tbsp chiffonade (sliced) and 2 Tbsp for garnish
***If you want to make it vegetarian, leave out the sausage and add in more vegetables.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the center down to about 1/2″ thickness, reserving about 1/2 cup. Cut up the reserved zucchini it if it’s not too seedy. If it is, I recommend using another zucchini for the filling (this is what I did) and cutting it into 1/2″ dice. Put the two halves of the zucchini into a large baking dish.
Dice into 1/2″ pieces the onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers and eggplant. Mince the garlic.
Remove the sausage from the casings and break it apart into small pieces. Cook the sausage all the way through in a pan. Set aside to cool.
Heat a large pan (I used a non-stick wok) and add 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Cook the onions until translucent. Add in the eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini and bell peppers.
Cook until they start to get soft and then add in the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can touch it (we’re going to add in the egg next and you don’t want it to cook as soon as it touches the hot vegetables).
In a large bowl, mix together the sausage and the vegetables. Mix in the beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, fresh breadcrumbs and 2 Tbsp. fresh basil to bind it all together. Scoop it into the zucchini halves, mounding up the filling.
Cover with foil and seal the edges around the baking dish (this will keep it moist and help steam cook the zucchini). Bake for 45 minutes or until the zucchini is tender (but not mushy!). Remove the foil and turn the oven to broil. Sprinkle the top with grated Parmesan and place it under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned. Remove and garnish with more fresh basil.
These two halves of zucchini served 5 people for dinner and I wish we’d had more. There were no leftovers and not much for seconds, though it was so good everyone (yes, even me, “vegetable ambivalent girl”) said they could have eaten more. If I were to make again, I’d make two.
One last confession; when I made the filling for the zucchini I ended up with about double the amount I needed. I set half of it aside before adding in the egg, breadcrumbs and cheese and used it the following day for a pasta. I added in some ratatouille I’d made and pureed into a sauce and some extra fresh tomatoes.
The amounts in the recipe have been adjusted back, but if you end up with extra stuffing anyway, I recommend you add some tomatoes or tomato sauce and make pasta!