In this post I’m sharing delicious Italian stuffed zucchini boats vegetarian style. This recipe is full of delicious Italian flavors and doesn’t end up a pile of baked mush!
While there are multiple ways and variations to make stuffed zucchini, my version shows you how to make an Italian version in a snap. This meatless recipe is healthy, quick, bakes in the oven and tastes amazing!
Ingredients You’ll Need for Italian Stuffed Zucchini (Courgette)
As I stated, this recipe is Italian-style, so I use standard ingredients found in Italian cooking. You can certainly alter the recipe to include meat, but I personally prefer it meatless.
The ingredients you’ll need are simple and can be found at any local grocery store.
- Medium zucchini (courgette)
- Italian cheese (Romano or Parmesan)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper (optional)
Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Take 3 medium zucchini’s and cut off the ends with the stem and then slice them lengthwise so you end up with 6 halves. This is similar to my zucchini pizza boats recipe, but instead we hollow these out.
You hollow out the zucchini using a spoon and discard the seeds.
Chop the zucchini pulp and save for later.
Then chop up 3/4 cup of onion, and 3/4 cup of fresh tomato. Add in a diced clove of garlic. Add it to the bowl of chopped zucchini that we set aside earlier.
Next you heat up about 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Once heated, add the vegetarian stuffing and saute for 5-6 minutes.
It will seem like a lot of filling at first, but it will cook down, so don’t worry that you’ll have too much.
You can also add the salt and pepper if you want, but frankly it is not even needed at all.
Then you transfer the mixture from the saute pan back to a bowl and add in 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup of cheese and 1/4 tbsp basil (not pictured).
Fill each of the zucchini boats as shown below. Brush or drizzle on a little olive oil over top and bake in an oven proof pan for 40-50 minutes at 375F.
Remove from the oven when the zucchini can be easily pierced with a fork. Sprinkle with extra basil and cheese before serving.
Serve the zucchini boats warm.
What Herbs to Use for Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats?
My vegetarian stuffed zucchini recipe uses only basil. However, you can add a mixture of Italian herbs such as oregano and parsley too if you want. I like the simplicity of the fresh basil with the tomatoes and zucchini but that’s also a personal preference.
One tip, make sure to add some basil on top when serving, along with a sprinkling of cheese.
Do you Have to Stuff the Zucchini without Meat
No you don’t. Although this recipe is for vegetarians, many recipes simply add meat like ground beef or sausage. If you do, use only pre-cooked meat, or cook it along with the onions until it’s fully cooked; then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
While for my stuffed cubanelle peppers recipe I stuff them raw and let everything cook together in the oven, I DO NOT recommend that with this recipe. Precook the meat in the saute pan first then stuff the zucchini and bake.
Recipe Ideas for Veggie Stuffed Zucchini Boats
While I like to keep my recipes very simple, you can certainly get as creative as possible when choosing ingredients to stuff your zucchini.
Here are some meatless ideas:
- red onion
- lentils (pre-cooked)
- barley (pre-cooked)
- rice (pre-cooked)
Do you Cover the Italian Zucchini Boats While Cooking?
No, you don’t.
Zucchini has lots of moisture already and you don’t want to trap that steam, you want it to be released. If you do it will make the stuffed zucchini really mushy and we don’t want that. This is the same principle I use for my baked stuffed tomatoes recipe.
What you want is for the zucchini to still hold it’s boat shape (but not stiff) just like in our zucchini pizza boat recipe. So the zucchini should be able to be cut with a fork, and you can even use a knife to cut it, although probably not totally necessary.
Do you Peel the Zucchini?
No, you want the skin to be left on. If you peel the zucchini it will not hold the boat form and will become too soft for holding the stuffing.
What Kind of Zucchini is Best?
Any kind of zucchini is fine. Black beauty is good, or any other. Since we want these hollowed out, we need to make sure the zucchini is wide enough for stuffing. Do not pick them too young. I’d recommend 7 to 8 inches long should allow for enough width.
I’ve talked about in the past Italian zucchini where the skin is a really, really pale green. I’m not sure what the actual name is as I got the seeds from my in-laws. That zucchini is much more mellow in flavor and it still tastes amazing.
Side Dish for Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Stuffed Italian zucchini boats are fun and healthy to eat. But what type of side dish will go with zucchini boats? Sides dishes should be complimentary to the zucchini flavor, not overpowering the main dish. Add in protein-rich side dishes such as Italian chickpea salad, cannellini bean salads, or meat dishes such as our healthy Italian breaded chicken breasts recipe.
For adding more fiber dense recipes, choose recipes that include lentils and or other legumes.
Pasta also is a good choice for zucchini boats since zucchini and pasta go well together in many recipes.
And if you’re wondering what else to do with zucchini, check out our recipe for pan fried zucchini flowers to add some additional options for serving.
Do You Have to Saute the Mixture First?
No, but I do to mix the ingredients and saute them to get rid of some of the water content.
Plus I don’t like risking having crunchy onions that didn’t cook properly because of dicing them too large or for whatever reason.
For the extra 5 minutes of cooking in the frying pan I think it’s well worth the effort.
Can you Freeze Stuffed Zucchini?
I haven’t so I can’t say if it works, but you could. I’d freeze them pre-cooked, or partially cooked. The problem is that if you let them thaw and sit they may get soggy, and you want to avoid that.
So maybe just try baking them when you take them out of the freezer, just keep an eye on the time as it will take longer.
Can you Make this Recipe the Day Before?
However these Italian stuffed zucchini boats can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a day or two before baking. You can prefill them, or keep the mixture in a separate air tight container and then stuff the boats when you’re ready to bake them.
Let the zucchini and stuffing get to room temperature before baking in the oven.
Here’s the Recipe so you can print it out:
Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats Vegetarian-Style
- 3 medium zucchini
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 finely diced garlic clove
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 3/4 cup chopped tomato
- 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- Cut off the end stems of the zucchini
- Hollow out the zucchini and chop what you've scooped out including any pulp and set aside in bowl
- Chop 3/4 cup of onion and add to bowl
- Chop 3/4 cup of fresh tomato and add to bowl
- Dice up the garlic and add to bowl
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saute or frying pan over medium heat
- Add mixture to saute pan, stir and saute for 5-6 minutes
- When finished, return mixture to bowl and add the breadcrumbs, cheese and basil
- Fill the zucchini with the mixture and brush a little olive oil on top
- Bake uncovered at 375F 40-50 minutes
- Serve warm or cold, sprinkle with more fresh basil and cheese and enjoy!
- Don’t let the zucchini become too mushy when baking, you want it a little firm, but even still don’t worry if you over cook it – it is great!
- This recipe goes great with a side dish of pasta and fresh artisan bread!
What Does this Recipe Go Well With?
Zucchini always pairs well with: