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!
3tablespoonsolive oildivided plus more for oiling the baking dish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1cupwater *or broth
1cupfresh coarse breadcrumbs
2tablespoonschopped fresh parsley
½cupfreshly grated Parmesan cheese
1largeplum tomatoseeded and chopped
1can (28-ounce)crushed tomatoes
1can (15-ounce)tomato sauce
½teaspooncrushed red pepper flakesor to tolerance
1large sprigfresh basilcoarsely chopped (approximately ½ cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepperto taste
¼cupfreshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pasta for serving
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.
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.
Spoon ⅔ 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.
* 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.