The Grillmaster often tells a story about a former neighbor’s Middle Eastern mother. Whenever she visited her son in the U.S., she would hollow out squash and stuff them with rice, tomatoes and meat. He was always amazed by how she could scoop out the pulp of a crookneck squash while leaving the skin intact.
Fortunately, this recipe uses nice straight zucchini that are easy to hollow out. Normally, I go for skinny zucchini, but in this case, fatter is definitely better. If your zucchini are big enough, you can cut them in half crosswise and then take out the pulp with an apple corer – very simple and no finesse required.
The cores (pulp) aren’t used in this recipe, but do save them. I had planned on throwing them into some soup, but The Grillmaster found them first and used them to enhance a chunky vegetable pasta sauce.
How I Made Stuffed Zucchini
The only deviation I made from the recipe below was to use ground turkey instead of ground beef chuck.
When I first read the recipe, I really wanted to cook the turkey a little first. There was something about shoving raw meat and dry rice into the squash that didn’t seem quite right. But I decided to trust Mr. Hazan, who knows way more about Italian cooking than I ever will, and it worked out just fine.
My stuffing was a little on the dry side, so I’ll probably use a mixture of beef and turkey next time. I might also try putting some of the tomato inside the zucchini.
I recommend using a pan large enough so that your zucchini can fit all in one layer. I had to double-stack some of mine and the ones on top didn’t get quite as much tomatoey goodness as the ones on the bottom.
About the Book
Hazan Family Favorites is a beautiful book with charming stories and pictures from Giuliano Hazan’s childhood. Hazan’s mother is Marcella Hazan, the “godmother of Italian cooking in America.”
My favorite picture in the book is one of Giuliano’s father shaving fresh white truffle over his mother’s plate of risotto (page 68). You can just feel the love they have – for each other and the food. There are also photos of Giuliano cooking with his own daughters, continuing the family tradition.
- 3 pounds zucchini
- 1/2 pound ground beef chuck
- 3/4 cup Italian rice for risotto Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, or Arborio
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes or 1-1/2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Cut off the ends of the zucchini, then cut each squash in half crosswise. Use an apple corer (or dinner knife with a rounded tip) to scoop out the inside of each zucchini, leaving a tube shape with a 1/4-inch wall. Save the pulp for another meal.
- Put the ground beef and rice in a mixing bowl. Add the grated nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands, then fill the hollowed-out zucchini with the mixture. Only fill up to about 1/4 inch from the ends to allow space for the rice to expand as it cooks.
- Peel and coarsely chop the tomatoes.
- Peel and finely chop the garlic and put it with the olive oil in a shallow braising pan or a skillet deep enough to accommodate the zucchini. Place the skillet over medium-high heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes and season lightly with salt.
- Once the tomatoes are bubbling, add the stuffed zucchini, lower the heat to medium, and cook until very tender, 45 to 50 minutes. If there is still liquid in the pan when they are done, raise the heat and cook, uncovered, until the sauce reduces. Serve hot or at room temperature.
318 calories, 11g fat (2g sat), 30mg cholesterol, 204mg sodium, 41g carb, 5g fiber, 8g sugar, 15g protein Too many carbs? Reduce the serving size or use less rice in your stuffing.