As I’ve mentioned before, zucchini squash make frequent garden cameo appearances around here, but they quickly overstay their welcome. This recipe helps fight that zucchini fatigue by repurposing them into a company-worthy vessel for Italian sausage. I used to grow 8-Ball zucchinis in my garden just for this recipe. Their round shape was perfect for stuffing and you could replace their little tops before baking. But I’ve since discovered that any squash will do just fine. You could even get some baby ones and make this as an appetizer for a party. Or if you’ve had more than enough zucchini and if you eat another one you just might puke, substitute bell peppers.
There are lots of steps and prep for this one, so be sure to check out my notes at the bottom. There were just too many tips to overburden the instructions. But in general, you want everything diced as small as possible. Either make and stuff these ahead of time or be sure you’re starting before your hunger sets in.
If you’re not a dairy consumer, feel free to omit the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Because the cheese acts as a binder (resulting in less crumbly filling), you might want to substitute a tablespoon of coconut flour to the filling in place of the Parmesan. You could also substitute an egg, but you’d need to stuff the zucchini with the raw filling (but sauté the mushrooms, onion, garlic, and greens first, then add to sausage), place them in a baking dish filled with 1/4 inch water, and cook in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
8 zucchini, or other squash
2 lbs. Italian sausage, loose or removed from casings
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
4-5 button mushrooms, diced small
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, diced fine
2 cups greens, like shredded chard/kale or spinach
1/2 cup basil, shredded (reserve some for garnish)
8 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large fresh mozzarella balls, sliced into rounds
1) Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out a center channel (basically, all the seedy area), leaving a little at each end to hold the filling. Make sure you leave enough of a wall to hold the filling. Chop up the innards and set the zucchini aside.
2) In a large skillet over medium-high heat, begin cooking sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Add oregano, garlic powder, and thyme. When fat begins to render, add zucchini innards, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. When meat is almost done (about 5-6 minutes), add greens, basil, tomato paste, and Parmesan, stirring to combine. Remove from heat.
3) Stuff zucchini as full as they’ll go, pressing down to get more in. Top with mozzarella slices and place in a baking dish. Put in oven and set timer for 20 minutes.
4) At 20 minutes, check to make sure the squash are tender and yield a bit when squeezed (Quickly! Don’t burn yourself!). If not, give them another 5 minutes. Cooking time may vary due to type and size of squash.
Serves 4, possibly with leftovers.
- When cutting zucchini in half, try to find the line of symmetry so they’ll sit better in the baking dish.
- When scooping out zucchini innards, it helps to create the outline for your channel with a small knife first, then use a small spoon to scoop it all out.
- As you can see in the photo above, since there’s so much chopping going on, it helps to have a secondary cutting board for the piles of veggies so you can keep your cutting board free.
- With the mushrooms, I found it helpful to halve them lengthwise through the cap, then into tiny strips, and then across into pieces.
- If you don’t feel like mincing olives, you could sub an olive tapenade.
- If you don’t already know about chiffonade, today’s your lucky day. Anytime you’re dealing with greens and basil and you want a nice, thin slice, make a stack of the leaves and roll it up tightly. Then slice across the roll into thin shreds.