I went to the farm stand near our house a few days ago specifically for zucchini. They have the kind that you would grow in your backyard...you know, the ones that aren't super tiny you get your money's worth.
When I was younger, my parents had a garden behind the garage and they would grow everything from strawberries to chives to zucchini. I remember that zucchini fondly because to this day, I have not seen any that could compare. I'm not exaggerating when I say they were a foot and a half in length and at least five inches in diameter. You can't find vegetables like that anywhere anymore, but at least the local farm stands come close.
The zucchinis I purchased were beautiful. They didn't have any blemishes from hundreds of grocery store shoppers grabbing at them and they were uniform in size. There was only one thing I could do with this batch of zucchini...I had to stuff them. And I couldn't just leave it at that either; I had to go and make a yummy tomato-balsamic drizzle to go with it.
This is quite possibly one of the best dishes I've made to date. I'm in love with zucchini all over again because of this hearty, meat-stuffed veggie meal. If you only ever make one dish with zucchini, I highly suggest that this be that one dish...you won't be disappointed. Seriously, it's that good.
Italian-Style Meat Stuffed Zucchini
3 large zucchini
1 lb ground chuck (or other lean meat)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c shredded mozzarella
1/3 c Panko breadcrumbs
Tomato-Balsamic Sauce for drizzling (recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
3. Slice zucchini in half length-wise and scoop out the middle seed area. Set seeded flesh aside.
4. When water has boiled, carefully add zucchini halves to pot. Cook/boil for 10 minutes or until tender. Be careful not to overcook or they will become mushy and you won't be able to remove them without falling apart. Drain on paper towel
5. Cook meat and onion in skillet until meat is cooked.
6. Drain any excess grease.
7. Chop reserved zucchini flesh and add to meat.
8. Add garlic, tomatoes and seasonings to meat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until any liquid is gone and vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.
9. Turn off heat and add Parmesan cheese. Stir well.
10. Place zucchini on foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
11. Fill each zucchini half with meat mixture.
12. Mix shredded mozzarella and breadcrumbs and sprinkle evenly over zucchini.
13. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown.
14. Drizzle with tomato-balsamic sauce before serving.
1 tsp oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 TB onion
reserved juice from drained tomatoes used in zucchini stuffing
1 1/2 TB tomato paste
1 TB balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
dash Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook onion and garlic in oil until soft.
2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil.
3. Lower heat and simmer for a few minutes.
4. Puree sauce and drizzle over zucchini.