Stuffed Zucchini. Yum!

I love recipes that use up what I already have on hand. So when a friend sent me her mother’s stuffed zucchini recipe, how could I resist?

Zucchini, as everyone knows who either has a garden or knows a gardener, is in season right now. (Ever heard that old Garrison Keillor joke about not leaving your windows down in your car this time of year, or you will come back and find a bag of zucchini in the back seat?) I had purchased three good-sized zucchini from a local farmers market last week with this recipe in mind. They were a great price because of the size.

Also on hand was some stale French bread and a 10 oz bag of frozen spinach from last year’s garden (I know…it’s embarassing). I also keep shredded parmesan cheese frozen in a zip top bag. Not as good as fresh, but it lasts forever, and so is always on hand (no green cans of pizza cheese for me).

The whole bit about getting the bread wet and squeezing it out was new to me, but it does keep the dish nice and moist, and since I’m a dough girl (I used to prefer raw pie dough to cooked when I was a toddler) wet bread is not as scary for me as it might be for some.

This recipe is mild enough that even young children should like it, if they are reasonable vegetable eaters (I would not have touched this before I was 25 – sigh. It was NOT for my parents lack of effort, trust me).

When I do make this again, I’d probably choose to use a spicy Italian sausage, a whole can of diced tomatoes rather than 1/2 cup of plain sauce and some garlic (can you believe this Italian recipe does not include garlic?). My friend, who is an adventuresome cook, doesn’t mess with the original, as it tastes of her childhood, and who wants to mess with that!  Thanks, Tracy, for the recipe.

I’ve been told this freezes well.

Stuffed Zucchini from an Italian Mom

5-8 lbs zucchini – not small, but not baseball bat sized either
4 tbls olive oil
1 large onion (chopped)
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups diced french bread cubes
1 pkg (10-12 oz) frozen spinach
1/4 cup lightly packed parsley
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
3 eggs
Additional shredded parmesan

Scoop soft, seedy center from zucchini halves; discard.  Score flesh in inch squares, cutting half through to outer skin.  Rub flesh with 2 tablespoons olive oil; sprinkle lightly with salt; set aside.

Everything but the meat is ready

Heat remaining 2 tbls oil in a wide frying pan; add onion and cook until soft.  Add the meat, break apart with a fork and cook over high heat until no longer pink. Add tomato sauce, thyme, and 3/4 teaspoons of salt; simmer rapidly for about 5 minutes, stirring; then remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cover bread with water, then drain. With your hands, squeeze all water possible from the bread, then set aside. Also combine spinach and parsley with 1/2 cup parmesan and eggs and beat to blend.

Combine meat sauce, bread and spinach mixture. Mound all the mixture into the zucchini halves, patting firmly in place.

Ready to go in the oven

Place zucchini in a baking pan (I used a 1/2 sheet pan because the squash were so big) with about ½ inch of water.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the zucchini is quite tender.  Transfer into serving dish.  Cut crosswise to serve and pass the parmesan!

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