Zucchini is so abundant in the summer that we tend to eat it a hundred different ways. This may be my favorite way to serve zucchini though. Stuffed Zucchini Boats are a healthy and naturally low carb dinner that is still satisfying and filling.
Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats have a crumbled sausage and tomato sauce filling topped with melted mozzarella and parmesan cheese and then are baked until golden.
As the summer squash continues to grow this recipe gets better and better… why? Because the bigger the zucchini, the more filling you can stuff it with. Stuffed zucchini is always best with large zucchini so use your first harvest for things like zucchini tots and healthy couscous salad and save some zucchini on the vine for when it’s a little bigger. This Stuffed Zucchini Boat recipe is going to be a new favorite weeknight dinner so get ready to eat good tonight.
About the Ingredients for Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Zucchini – plan for 1 whole zucchini per person. Depending on additional side dishes 1/2 might be enough per person but they are so good that I’d plan extra.
Seasonings – Italian seasoning, salt and pepper are sprinkled on the zucchini before stuffing them. You can measure the seasonings or you can just use your fingers and pinch.
Sausage – the meat is removed from the casings and stirred to a crumble while cooking. You could definitely use other types of ground meat but the added seasonings in sausage do give this dish nice flavor since their aren’t a lot of ingredients.
Onion and garlic – chopped and sautéed with the meat.
Tomato sauce – you don’t need anything fancy. I love a good homemade tomato sauce but jarred sauce saves some time and has plenty of great flavor still. I keep a 3 pack of Classico Tomato Sauce for recipes like this.
Cheese – a combination of shredded mozzarella and a little bit of grated Parmesan make a nice melty topping to the zucchini boats.
How to Make Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Prepare the Zucchini
Begin by washing and drying the zucchini. Cut off the stems and slice each zucchini lengthwise into halves. Using a spoon, scrape the flesh of the zucchini out of the center of each side, creating a little boat. Then place the zucchini halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Season them with a sprinkle each of salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
Cook the Sausage and Veggies
Remove the sausage meat from the casings a cook in a large skillet. Stir the meat to a crumble while cooking. Once it is just about cooked through, add the chopped onion and after about 4 minutes add the minced garlic for another minute or two.
Pour the tomato sauce into the sausage crumble and bring everything to a simmer. Let the sauce simmer for a couple of minutes just to let the flavors combine. After 3-4 minutes, remove the pan from the heat.
Assemble the Sausage Zucchini Boats and Bake
Scoop some of the sausage mixture into each zucchini boat. Fill each zucchini as much as you can. Then top each one with shredded mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of grated parmesan.
Bake the Stuffed Zucchini Boats in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes or until the zucchini appears soft and the cheese is melted and toasted. Serve the baked stuffed zucchini hot.
Recipe Substitutions & Variations
Stuffed Zucchini with Rice and Meat
This Stuffed Zucchini Boat recipe is grain free but sometimes we just need a little extra substance. And if you’re like me and were planning to serve rice on the side, why not just mix it into the stuffing?
To add rice to your sausage stuffing, prepare the rice according to the package directions. Then mix in 1 cup of cooked rice to your sausage and tomato mixture before stuffing the boats.
Because you’re adding so much volume to your stuffing with the extra rice you will likely have stuffing left over. You can either make an extra zucchini (5 instead of 4) or you can cut the sausage back to 1 pound instead of 1 1/2 pounds.
Stuffed Zucchini Boats Vegetarian
Although the sausage adds a lot of flavor to the stuffing, it’s not necessary. You can make easily make these Stuffed Zucchini Boats vegetarian. Try omitting the sausage entirely. Then add in either whole grain rice (cook the rice first then add it to the onion, garlic and sauce as it simmers) or chopped tofu.
If you sub out the meat, add a little extra seasoning to your stuffing. Add 1 tsp of crushed fennel seeds and an additional 1/2 tsp of Italian seasonings to the sauce.
Make Ahead Instructions
Zucchini is best cooked right away once it’s cut. It releases a ton of water which is problematic for sitting out too long. This leaves 2 make ahead options for baked stuffed zucchini: either make your Stuffed Zucchini Boats completely ahead of time and then reheat them OR make the sausage filling ahead of time and then cut the zucchini, assemble the boats and bake right before serving.
How to Reheat Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Stuffed Zucchini Boats reheat quite well. Prepare the stuffed zucchini according to the recipe all the way through baking. Then let them cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for reheating later.
The zucchini will soften if left refrigerated too long so best not to make them more than 24 hours in advance.
To reheat the stuffed zucchini boats, place them in an oven safe dish covered with foil and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Prep the Sausage Filling Ahead and Assemble The Boats Later
To speed things up at dinner time, try making the sausage stuffing for zucchini ahead of time. Cook the sauce mixture according to the recipe and store it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days in a sealed container.
When you’re ready to make your stuffed zucchini simply cut and prep fresh zucchini, stuff them with your prepared mixture, top with cheese and bake according to the recipe. Depending on how cold your mixture is you may need to bake the zucchini for a few extra minutes so make sure the sauce is hot in the center before serving.
Freezer Meal Instructions
The defrosting process will not be kind to zucchini. The moisture from defrosting will turn the zucchini soggy and the tomato sauce in the sausage mixture runny. I don’t recommend freezing stuffed zucchini. HOWEVER…
You can definitely make the sausage stuffing in advance and freeze that. Then you can defrost the stuffing, stuff fresh zucchini and bake according to the recipe directions.
FAQ’s and Recipe Tips
Cut of the stem and then slice the zucchini lengthwise. On the cut side of the zucchini half, drag a spoon from one end to the other using gentle pressure. The flesh should easily scoop out of the center.
I don’t recommend it. The defrosting process will create a lot of moisture and the zucchini will become soggy. You can freeze the stuffing by itself and then defrost it when you’re ready to stuff and bake fresh zucchini.
Server zucchini boats with rice pilaf and a green salad for a complete meal.
The Recipe for Stuffed Zucchini Boats
The recipe is attached below for easy downloading and printing. If you test it out be sure to leave a note in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you thought. Serve your Stuffed Zucchini Boats with rice pilaf and a green salad to complete your meal. Enjoy!
Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 4 zucchini
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1½ lbs sausage meat removed from casings
- 1/2 onion
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 cups jarred tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Slice the stem of the zucchini off and then cut the 4 zucchini lengthwise into 2 halves. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the zucchini to create a well down the center. Place the zucchini halves on a baking sheet, cut side up.
- Season the zucchini with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1 tsp Italian seasoning. Set the zucchini aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add the 1½ lbs sausage and stir to a crumble while cooking. Cook the meat until almost completely brown throughout, about 4 minutes.
- While the sausage cooks, chop 1/2 onion. Add the onion to the sausage and continue cooking for another 4 minutes or until the onion softens.
- Add 2 tsp minced garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
- Pour in 2 cups jarred tomato sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat.
- Scoop the sausage mixture into the zucchini boats. Top each boat with some of the 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and then a sprinkle of the 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese.
- Bake the zucchini boats for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and toasted and the zucchini appears soft.