Actually, large zucchini work well in many recipes. They can be grated, cubed, chopped or simply stuffed and grilled or baked. Yet, stuffing them is my favourite way to use the really large ones. It’s why we call them ‘stuffers’.
So, just how big is a stuffer?
A zucchini that's at least 10 inches long and fat enough that you can scoop out the seeds while leaving a nice cavity for stuffing. Actually, you can stuff medium sized zucchinis too, so if you have just one or two people to cook for or you prefer to make single serving stuffed zucchini boats... you can do that too.
You’ll just have to adjust the amount of stuffing and cooking time accordingly.
A Great Way You Can Prepare Large Zucchini
Zucchini is really a type of squash. Like other members of the family, when the fruit reaches maturity it’s skin gets tough. The small and medium fruit that you see in stores and most often at the farmers’ markets is actually immature squash.
If you leave it out of the fridge for a few days it will go rubbery and begin to degrade. The mature zucchini fruit however has a hardened outer skin which keeps it from drying out and declining in quality for a much longer time, even at room temperature.
The disadvantage is that the skin gets so hard so it’s inedible and difficult to remove. The large fruit also gets to be full of seed and pulp, much like a pumpkin.
Now, if you’re going to stuff the thing that tough skin and a centre full of pulp and seeds is not a problem. The skin becomes a container and you’ll want a cavity to put stuffing in anyway.
As a bonus, if you enjoy roasted pumpkin seeds, you can do the same with the seeds out of a large zucchini. (It’s a fun project I used to do with with my kids when they were younger. You can even flavour the seeds with different dried herbs and spices.)
Once the stuffed zucchini is baked or grilled the outer skin gets softer. This makes it easy to cut the large stuffer into smaller serving size pieces to suit your preference. Or, you can just scoop out servings from inside the boat and leave the skin intact.
So, if you’ve missed your zucchini harvest for few days or you come across some monster zucchinis at the market... well, here are a couple easy recipes to take advantage of them.
Stuffed Italian Zucchini
If you have some left over Italian sausage, you can chop up and use it here... or you can start with uncooked or loose sausage as described in the recipe.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 very large or 4 medium zucchini
- 1 tablespoon cooking or olive oil
- 1 lb or roughly 1/2 kg of loose or chopped Italian sausage
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- salt and ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
- 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1T dried parsley)
What To Do:
- Wash, pat dry, and cut zucchini in half lengthwise.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Use a spoon to scoop out the pulp and seeds from the interior of the zucchini. Scoop out about half the thickness of the zucchini flesh and keep this separate. (To soften the flesh a bit, set the cut side down in a dish with a little water and steam it bit in a hot oven 20 minutes of so. Then let them cool off before handling them.) Place the zucchini boats in a casserole dish.
- Cut the scooped out flesh into small cubes and set aside for use in the stuffing mixture.
- In a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the Italian sausage. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, onion, chopped zucchini flesh, tomatoes and some salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 4 minutes.
- In a medium bowl mix together the Parmesan, mozzarella, breadcrumbs and parsley.
- Spoon in and mound the sausage mixture into the zucchini boats. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over top.
- Place the stuffed zucchini in the oven. Bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes.
Easy Stuffed Zucchini with Ground Beef
A quick recipe, a bit like a spaghetti casserole without the noodles. Easy to prepare as gluten free.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 large zucchini
- 2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 tomato diced
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 1 cup pasta sauce divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese divided
What To Do:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a frying pan cook the ground beef until browned throughout. Add onion and garlic when meat is almost done cooking.
- Drain any fat. And stir in tomato, bell pepper, Italian seasoning and half of the pasta sauce. Let simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in half of the cheese.
- Slice zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the centre. Place the halfed zucchini cut side up in a baking dish. Fill each zucchini with 1/4 of the stuffing mixture.
- Sprinkle the rest of the pasta sauce over the zucchini boats and top with rest of the cheese.
- Bake 25 minutes or until cheese bubbles and the zucchini is soft.
Simply wrap them in foil and keep them in the refrigerator for later. They’re good cold too. You can even vacuum seal them and freeze them to enjoy weeks later.
Now, that you’ve seen how it’s done, why stop there? Why not try a few variations of your own?
If you like hot foods, try adding a some Jalapeno pepper.
Want the kids to consume more nutritious greens? Chop up a little spinach, kale or Swiss chard and add to the mix.
We hope you’ll have fun preparing the harvest... and enjoy the bounty of the season.