Stuffed Zucchini Recipe with Tomato Sauce

4.75 from 4 votes
1 hour 30 minutes
Jump To Recipe

Seasoned ground beef and cheese are the perfect fillings for the delicate flavor of zucchini. Smothered in a lively red sauce, this Beef Stuffed Zucchini Recipe with Tomato Sauce is a hearty yet summery dish everyone will run for!

“I absolutely loved it! I served them on their own without pasta and they were fantastic!”

Two bowls of Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce on blue napkin.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

Summer is zucchini season and if you have a garden, you know it’s a prolific vegetable that can easily get oversized as soon as your back is turned. This stuffed zucchini recipe with tomato sauce makes perfect use of slightly larger than average zucchinis which have developed a seedy center but have not reached the tough, fibrous overgrown phase.

This baked stuffed zucchini recipe is one I’ve been making for personal chef clients for about as long as I’ve been in business and it’s always a hit!

This meaty stuffed zucchini boat recipe with tomato sauce is:

  • Easy with no complicated cooking techniques. There are a number of steps, but overall each step is very simple.
  • Make ahead! These stuffed zucchini boats can be assembled two to three days ahead of time and refrigerated, then baked when needed.
  • Freezer-friendly! It can be frozen and then baked at a later date.

Let’s make this stuffed zucchini recipe with ground beef!

Close-up of five Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce.

How to Make Beef Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Tomato Sauce:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this stuffed zucchini recipe, along with how to prep the ingredients. It looks like a lot, but you probably already have much of this! See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.

Ingredients for Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Zucchini: You’ll want to use zucchinis that are slightly larger than average–approximately 8 inches long and wide enough for stuffing. You can also use yellow zucchini (not the same as yellow squash).
  • Ground Beef: I like ground chuck for most ground beef recipes, but you can also use ground sirloin or something leaner. This recipe also works with ground turkey, chicken or pork sausage.
  • Fresh and Dried Basil? Yes! I use dried basil in the meat filling because the filling gets cooked twice: Once in the skillet and the second time when it gets baked. Dried basil needs a longer cooking time. Fresh basil is used in the tomato sauce and added at the end.
  • Fresh Breadcrumbs: I like to use fresh coarse breadcrumbs in this recipe but you can also use dried–preferably panko–which has a nice coarse texture. If using dried, keep in mind they’ll absorb more liquid so cut the amount in half.
  • Fresh, Crushed Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce: Crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce impart two distinctive flavors to dishes. Crushed tomatoes are minimally cooked so they retain much of the fresh flavor from the vine. Occasionally they are processed with a bit of salt, garlic or basil. However, for the most part, the tomatoes are left alone. Tomato sauce is cooked longer so the fresh tomato flavor isn’t as pronounced. However, tomato sauce is slow-cooked with herbs and spices, adding more flavor to the mix. Fresh, chopped tomatoes add texture and fresh tomato taste.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients.
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a large baking dish that’s large enough to hold all the stuffed zucchinis (at least 13 x 9-inch)
  • Remove the ends from the zucchinis and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop the seedy center from each zucchini half, creating a trench. (A few seeds left around the perimeter of the trench are fine.)
  • Place the zucchini halves on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  • Brush each zucchini half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Flip them over and brush the other side with olive oil.
  • Roast for 10-12 minutes. (You don’t want them too soft, you just want them to soften a little and take on some flavor.) Let cool while making the filling. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Roasted zucchini halves on parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes or until it softens.
  • Add the ground beef and cook for 6-7 minutes, breaking the meat up as you go until it’s no longer pink and cooked through. Drain off excess grease.
Browned ground beef in nonstick skillet.
  • Add the garlic, tomato paste, water (preferably water from rinsing out cans of crushed tomatoes and sauce), dried basil, oregano and breadcrumbs. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until water has evaporated. Stir in the parsley and Parmesan cheese. (The ground beef mixture should hold together easily.)
  • Fill each “trench” in the zucchinis with even amounts of the filling. Set aside while making the tomato sauce.
Meat-stuffed zucchini on parchment paper on rimmed baking sheet.
  • Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until it softens. Add the garlic and tomato and cook another 2 to 3 minutes or until it softens.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Stir in the fresh basil and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  • ASSEMBLY: Spoon 2/3 of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the stuffed zucchini over the tomato sauce. Top the zucchini with even amounts of the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake!
  • MAKE AHEAD: Sprinkle with the cheese, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Let sit at room temperature while the oven preheats or place into a cold oven. Bake as directed until hot, bubbling and the cheese is melted and heated through.
Baked Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce fresh out of the oven on blue napkin.
  • A little extra cheese on the baked stuffed zucchini boats at the end doesn’t hurt either!
Six Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce in white baking dish.
  • Serve the baked stuffed zucchini boats over spaghetti or angel hair pasta!
Two bowls of Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce on blue napkin.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • FLAVOR SAVER TIP!  Use the water called for in the stuffed zucchini recipe to rinse out the cans of crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and add it to the beef.
  • Be careful not to remove too much pulp from the zucchini. You want a sturdy border to hold that delicious meaty filling.
  • Make your own breadcrumbs for the best texture and flavor. Use good bread, cut into chunks, then pulse in a food processor or blender.
  • If you have a favorite jarred marinara you love, feel free to use that instead for this stuffed baked zucchini boat recipe to save time.
Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce in white bowl on blue napkin.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do you have to peel zucchini?

Definitely not. The skin of the zucchini is very thin and mostly water. You’ll derive the most benefits by not peeling zucchini as the skin holds healthful carotenoids. Zucchini itself is packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It has high fiber content and is low in calories.

Can Stuffed Zucchini Boats be made ahead of time?

This dish is excellent to make ahead. It can be prepped and assembled, then refrigerated until ready to bake/heat through.

Can baked stuffed zucchini be frozen?

Yes! If you plan to freeze the stuffed zucchini, get it prepped to the point of baking. Cool it down completely, then wrap it securely and freeze for up to three months. Leftovers can also be frozen, but the zucchini will be softer. Thaw in the refrigerator.

Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce over spaghetti with a forkful of zucchini with meat.

Serve stuffed zucchini with:

More great zucchini recipes you’ll love!

Grab all my amazing beef recipes at Beef Recipes – From A Chef’s Kitchen

Join the FROM A CHEF’S KITCHEN MAILING LIST to get all the latest posts and more!

Logo for From A Chef's Kitchen with gray oval border and green knife.
Meat-Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce in white bowl on blue napkin.

Beef Stuffed Zucchini Recipe with Tomato Sauce

4.75 from 4 votes

Click to Rate!

By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
Seasoned ground beef and cheese are the perfect fillings for the delicate flavor of zucchini. Smothered in a lively red sauce, Beef Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce is a hearty yet summery dish everyone will come running for!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Beef
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8
Calories 328 kcal

Ingredients
  

Zucchini and Filling

  • 4 medium to large zucchini - (8 inches long)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil - divided plus more for oiling the baking dish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion - finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water * - or broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup fresh coarse breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion - finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 large plum tomato - seeded and chopped
  • 1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (15-ounce) tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes - or to tolerance
  • 1 large sprig fresh basil - coarsely chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta - for serving

Instructions
 

Zucchini and Filling

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Set aside.
  • Remove the ends from the zucchini and cut them in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scrape the seeds from each half, creating a trench. (Be careful to not remove too much pulp from the zucchini. You want a sturdy border to hold the filling.)
  • Place the zucchini on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush each zucchini half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Flip them over and brush the other side with olive oil.
  • Roast for 10-12 minutes. (You don't want to be able to easily pierce them, you just want them to soften a little and take on some flavor.) Let cool while making the filling. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium and cook 4-5 minutes or until it begins to soften.
  • Add the ground beef and cook 6-7 minutes, breaking the meat up as you go until it's no longer pink and cooked through. Drain off excess grease.
  • Add the garlic, tomato paste, water (preferably water from rinsing out cans of crushed tomatoes and sauce), dried basil, oregano and breadcrumbs. Cook 3-4 minutes or until water has evaporated. Stir in the parsley and Parmesan cheese. (The mixture should hold together easily.)
  • Flip the zucchini over and fill each "trench" with even amounts of the filling.

Tomato Sauce

  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 3-4 minutes or until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and tomato and cook another 2-3 minutes or until it softens.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened up. Stir in the fresh basil and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Assembly

  • Spoon 2/3 of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the filled zucchini over the tomato sauce. Top the zucchini with even amounts of the remaining marinara and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35-40 minutes or until heated through and bubbling. Serve hot over pasta.

Notes

* FLAVOR SAVER TIP!  Use the water to rinse out the cans of crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.
MAKE AHEAD:  Sprinkle with the cheese, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Let sit at room temperature while the oven preheats or place into a cold oven. Bake as directed until hot, bubbling and the cheese is melted and heated through.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  If you’re planning to freeze this dish, get it prepped to the point of baking. Cool it down completely then wrap securely and freeze up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 325mg | Potassium: 300mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 346IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 172mg | Iron: 3mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment, star rating or post your photo on Instagram and tag @fromachefskitchen.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Have not made this yet. I’ve been looking for a good recipe for a very long time and I think this will be the one.

  2. 5 stars
    Game changer!!
    Over the years I’ve used various recipes for stuffed zucchini, and but always felt they were mediocre. After searching beyond the first page or two of Google, I came across your site and this recipe was enticing. I followed the instructions with only minor adjustments based on ingredients on hand, and I absolutely loved it! I served them on their own without pasta and they were fantastic! One thing I learned from this, search beyond the first few recipes, and don’t base a decision on the number of ratings…I hope you get a lot more!

    1. Hi, Kim, Thank you SO VERY MUCH!!! You really made my day and I’m so happy you enjoyed this dish. Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to get a recipe noticed among similar ones in a sea of recipes that “rank” with Google. I’m so happy you took notice and hope you’ll try some of my other recipes. Thanks again!!