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Zucchini Boats | Garden Recipes

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Zucchini Boats | Garden Recipes

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My garden is pumping out gigantic zucchini – at three to four pounds apiece, they are almost bigger than my dog. While smaller zucchinis are preferred for cooking, these enormous zucchinis are better off used as “boats” for dishing delicious food directly into your mouth.

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Large zucchini have a tendency to be stringy on the inside and therefore are harder to cook with. I've found the best way to utilize these gigantic squash is to fill them up and roast them - resulting in a deliciously tender zucchini.

To start, trim the ends of the zucchini and cut it down the middle lengthwise. I let mine rest for a few minutes after slicing and scraping out the seeds with a melon baller - if it's super fresh, as mine were, they'll slowly start to get beads of moisture on them, which makes it easier to get the zucchini drier for cooking.

You want to try to get as much of the moisture out of the zucchini as possible, so I pressed paper towels in the centers of each, then let sit for about an hour. I rotated or switched out the paper towels as needed to get out as much liquid as I could. Too much moisture and your zucchini boats will sink!

After drying them as much as I could, I popped the zucchini into the oven as it preheated. This also helps to evaporate the moisture contained in the zucchini flesh.

While the oven preheats, start the filling. I decided to make a simple meat sauce from scratch. Saute the onions and garlic until fragrant then deglaze the pan with a touch of red wine.

Let the wine evaporate to about half it's volume, then add in your herbs and spices. I used some garden fresh peppers to pump a little heat into my sauce.

Once stirred together and all the liquid has evaporated from the pan, remove the mixture to a separate bowl or plate and wipe the skillet clean to brown and crumble the ground beef. 

Once the beef is cooked and rinsed, the onion and herbs can be added back to the skillet.

Because I'm also drowning in tomatoes from my garden, I decided to mash up a bunch for my tomato sauce base. In the past I've used canned tomatoes - whatever you have on hand works!

As with the zucchini, you want to try to evaporate as much of the liquid from skillet as possible. If the filling is too wet, it will cause the boats to get too soft.

The meat filling should just barely be past a "saucy" consistency - meaning it should move and pour like a sauce, but be really thick while staying together.

Adding mozzarella cheese will also help keep the filling together - I actually used chopped up string cheese, but pearls or shredded mozzarella can be used too.

Fill up the boats so they are over flowing. As my zucchini boats baked, I boiled up some pasta and popped it into the dish for the last ten minutes of cooking.

Zucchini boats are ideal for shipping food directly into your mouth. Now that I know how to cook giant zucchini, I think I'll definitely be letting my zucchini get huge!

Categories: Dinner , As Seen in Mimi

Tags: Zucchini , Mozzarella , Beef , Garden

The Starving Chef Blog

Zucchini Boats | Garden Recipes

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

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  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 cups fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, chopped or shredded
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3-4 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon butter or oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional, to taste)
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Here's How:

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  1. Cut the zucchini down the center lengthwise. Use a melon baller to scrape out the seeds, leaving about a ½ - ¾ inch thick bottom and sides of the zucchini. Press paper towels into the center of each zucchini to absorb any excess moisture. Preheat the oven to 400°F – put the zucchini cut-side-up in a glass pan and place in the oven while it preheats.
  2. In a skillet over high heat, cook the ground beef. Once cooked, rinse the beef and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean and return to the heat.
  3. Add the butter to the skillet along with the onions. Sauté until tender, then add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan and let the liquid reduce by half.
  4. Stir in the peppers and mushrooms and cook for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the herbs.
  5. Reduce the heat and return the ground beef to the skillet. Stir in the chopped tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for about fifteen minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the mix from the heat and stir in the cubes of mozzarella cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar, as desired.
  6. Scoop the beef mixture into the centers of each zucchini boat. Return the pan to the oven and cook for about twenty to thirty minutes, until the zucchini is cooked through and the mozzarella is browning on top. Rest ten minutes then cut and serve alongside your favorite pasta, as desired.

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