This zesty Stuffed Zucchini recipe is packed with Italian-inspired ingredients like Italian turkey sausage, tomatoes, and a shower of basil Parmesan breadcrumbs. It’s easy, quick, healthy, and, hands-down, one of my favorite zucchini boat recipes of all time.
An overload of zucchini is a summer tradition that I look forward to with gusto.
I adore both the challenge of creating unique ways to prepare it (hello, Zucchini Casserole) and revisiting my absolute favorite zucchini recipes, like today’s stuffed zucchini. (Zucchini Fritters are next on my list.)
No matter your current zucchini supply situation, this easy stuffed zucchini has you covered.
- Did you just harvest a bounty of zucchini from your own garden? Better plan on making a double batch (ditto goes for Blueberry Zucchini Bread).
- Researching stuffed zucchini recipes in anticipation that you’ll be gifted a surplus of zucchini (again) from your mother-in-law? Your work here is done.
- Simply need a healthy meal idea for dinner tonight using the fresh zucchini you pick up at the farmer’s market? Look no further (and consider Zucchini Pasta too)!
This healthy stuffed zucchini recipe is an affordable, satisfying dish that elevates the humble zucchini into a special meal for any occasion.
5 Star Review
“Everyone in our family loves this recipe. The flavors are outstanding and the breadcrumbs were totally worth it. Looking forward to making this all summer”
— Evette —
Why I Love Stuffed Zucchini
While there are as many ways to stuff a zucchini (hello, Zucchini Pizza Boats), I love this particular recipe for a number of reasons.
- It is jam-packed (literally) with Italian flavors like fresh basil, zesty Italian sausage, and Parmesan cheese (like my favorite Italian Stuffed Peppers)
- The filling includes other summer produce heroes like tomatoes and bell peppers.
- The topping is simply to die for—a mix of whole wheat breadcrumbs, olive oil, more fresh basil, and more Parmesan.
To summarize, these simple zucchini boats are hearty, full of summer flavors, and yet, light enough that you don’t feel like you’re overindulging yourself.
How to Make Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Cheesy, herby, and healthy, they’re a dream (zucchini) boat—pun intended.
With their combination of lean turkey sausage, veggies both inside and out, and whole grains, these healthy stuffed zucchini boats are an ideal all-in-one dinner (as are these Zucchini Enchiladas).
They also reheat beautifully the next day, so you can make a big batch to enjoy a few times throughout the week.
- Zucchini. Zucchini makes an ideal vessel for our scrumptious Italian-inspired ingredients (they also make great Zucchini Ravioli). Plus, it’s rich in Vitamin-A and antioxidants. The best part? There’s no need to peel the zucchini before eating it.
- Italian Sausage. I used ground Italian turkey sausage, and it was ideal. Turkey is a lean protein, and the Italian herbs and spices added to the meat give stuffed zucchini recipes like this one (and these Grilled Stuffed Peppers) additional flavor.
You can also make this recipe with ground Italian chicken sausage or classic Italian pork sausage. Just note that the nutrition profile will change with these swaps.
- Red Bell Pepper + Red Onion. For beautiful color, more veggies, and complexity.
- Tomato Paste. Tomato paste imparts rich, deep flavor that tastes like you’ve been cooking away all day.
- Basil. A touch of basil adds freshness and a taste of summer sunshine.
Don’t be afraid to add additional seasonal fresh herbs to this recipe. Fresh oregano or parsley would also be lovely in this dish.
- Whole Wheat Bread + Parmesan. For our crispy breadcrumb topping. As the zucchini bakes, the breadcrumbs transform into a golden, toasty “lid” that I caught myself eating right off the top of the zucchini boats before I’d taken a real bite. (I also love the breadcrumb topping on this Air Fryer Zucchini!)
The recipe does make what will seem like a lot of breadcrumb topping but trust me, you are going to want it all.
- Prepare the zucchini boat shells, and place them in a baking dish.
How to Hollow Out Zucchini for Zucchini Boats
After cutting each zucchini in half lengthwise, you hollow out zucchini as follows by removing both the seeds and center flesh.
- I like to use the tip of a small spoon or a melon baller to first remove the seeds and discard them. Earlier in the season, small zucchini may have very few seeds, while larger, later season zucchini may have many.
- Once the seeds are discarded, scoop out the center flesh. This I reserve for the zucchini filling.
- I use two fingers to grip the top of the zucchini while I scoop out the flesh. When scooping, be sure to apply enough pressure to remove the flesh but not enough to cut through the bottom.
- Brown the sausage, onion, and bell pepper in a skillet. Add the spices.
- Stir in the garlic and tomato paste, and add the scooped zucchini flesh.
- Prepare the Parmesan basil breadcrumb topping in a food processor.
- Stir half of the breadcrumbs into the sausage mixture. Mound the zucchini shells with the sausage filling, topping each one with the remaining breadcrumbs. Bake zucchini boats at 425 degrees F for 13 to 15 minutes. ENJOY!
- To Make Gluten Free. Use gluten-free bread for your breadcrumb topping.
- To Make Dairy Free. Omit the Parmesan, or use nutritional yeast instead.
- To Make Vegetarian. For vegetarian stuffed zucchini, omit the ground turkey. Take a note from my Mushroom Tacos, and try mushroom-stuffed zucchini as a “meaty” substitute.
- To Make Vegan. Follow both the vegetarian and dairy-free adaptations above.
- To Store. Store leftover stuffed zucchini in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm stuffed zucchini in a casserole dish in the oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through. If the breadcrumbs start to brown too much, loosely tent the dish with foil. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.
Can You Freeze Stuffed Zucchini?
I do not recommend freezing stuffed zucchini recipes, as the zucchini will likely become mushy. Enjoy the leftovers within a few days, or give them to friends.
What to Serve with Stuffed Zucchini
Stuffed zucchini is a great standalone meal.
It’s also great when paired with one (or more) of these tasty dishes.
- Skillet. A high-quality skillet is an essential tool in my kitchen.
- Spatula. I use this basic spatula ALL the time.
- Extra Large Cutting Board. The extra space is so helpful when preparing the zucchini for this recipe.
- Melon Baller. The perfect tool for hollowing out the zucchini.
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought!
Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.
Embrace your zucchini surplus this year, and make this the first of many stuffed zucchini recipes you make this season on repeat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is My Baked Zucchini Mushy?
Mushy baked zucchini is often overcooked. Keep an eye on your stuffed zucchini as it bakes, and remove once it is heated through and fork tender.
Do You Peel Zucchini Before Using?
No! While some recipes will suggest peeling zucchini, you typically do not want to peel a zucchini that you intend to stuff. The skin will help the zucchini retain a boat-like shape as it bakes. Plus, there are wonderful nutrients in the zucchini skin.
Can I Make Stuffed Zucchini with an Oversized Zucchini?
Sure! While I find zucchini that are closer to 5 to 6 inches in length best in terms of taste, texture, and size (they fit in most baking dishes), you could also make an oversized stuffed zucchini boat with this recipe too. Note that you may have to experiment with the cook time and filling amount.
- 4 whole zucchini (about 5 to 6 inches long)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 1/2 pound ground Italian turkey sausage casings removed
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1 large red bell pepper diced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan plus additional for serving
Place a rack in the upper third of your oven. Preheat to 425°F.
Halve the zucchini lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and discard the seeds. Then, scoop out the soft center flesh to create shallow zucchini “shells,” with walls about 1/2 inch thick, reserving the center flesh. Arrange the zucchini shells in a baking dish. Roughly chop the center flesh and set it aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then add the sausage, onion, and bell pepper. Using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, break apart the sausage, sautéing it together with the vegetables, until the onions are soft and the sausage is browned and fully cooked, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook 1 additional minute, until tomato paste is broken down and incorporated. Add in the reserved zucchini flesh and heat through for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes as desired.
Toast the bread slices, then tear them into large pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the basil and remaining tablespoon olive oil. Pulse until the bread is broken into large crumbs. Add the Parmesan and pulse just until incorporated, 2 or 3 times.
Fold half of the basil breadcrumbs into the sausage mixture. With a small spoon, mound the sausage stuffing into the shells, then sprinkle the tops of the stuffed zucchini with the remaining breadcrumbs. Roast in oven until the zucchini is heated through and the breadcrumbs are golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Enjoy immediately.
- TO STORE: Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm stuffed zucchini in a casserole dish the oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through. If the breadcrumbs start to brown too much, loosely tent the dish with foil. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.
- TIP: Grate cheese the easy way! Before starting the recipe, grate an entire wedge of Parmesan cheese right in your food processor. Cut the wedge into chunks, place them in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, then pulse until ground. Measure out and set aside the 1/2 cup needed for the recipe. Store the remainder in your refrigerator for weeks. You’ll always have fresh Parm on hand! Then proceed with making the stuffed zucchini, no need to wash the processor bowl in between.
Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 321kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 18gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 34mgFiber: 4gSugar: 7g
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