I’ve made a lot of different zucchini dishes over the years, not to mention breads, bars, etc., but I have to say that this one ranks right up there at the top! When my neighbor, Annamaria, passed a plate through the parlatorio the other day (the “talking hole” in the jasmine-covered wall along our back terraces) I couldn’t wait to make it myself.
As is always the case with Annamaria’s recipes, there is a lot of wiggle room and no specific amounts or times, so I’ve done my best to guesstimate.
Here we go …
Small Stuffed Zucchini with Tomato Sauce
- 8-10 small zucchini (look for the variety that are elongated and have dark green skin)
- 1 pound (or so) high quality ground beef (I prefer grass-fed)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tablespoons
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (gluten-free, in my case)
- 1/4 grated Parmigiano
- several leaves of fresh basil, a few sprigs of fresh oregano and a small bunch of fresh parsley – all chopped very fine
- 1 16 ounce can tomato purèe
- salt and pepper to taste
First you’ll need one of these (see picture below) to core the zucchini. I love this tool!
- Simmer 1 clove of minced garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the tomatoes and half of the finely chopped herbs. Add salt and pepper and simmer on med/low until slightly thickened, then remove from heat. (If tomato puree is too thick, add water.)
- Partially brown the ground beef. Add the remaining herbs, garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmigiano and breadcrumbs.
- Core the zucchini using the coring tool pictured above. It’s easiest to core from one end then turn the zucchini around and core from the other end. (Discard the center pulp, use in another recipe or toss on the compost pile.)
- Preheat oven to 375° F
- Stuff zucchini with the ground beef mixture and place, side by side, in a large baking pan.
- Bake zucchini at 375º for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325° and continue to bake for approximately 45 minutes, turning zucchini with tongs about every 15-20 minutes (so that they cook evenly).
- When zucchini are soft when poked with a fork, ladle the tomato sauce into the same pan and continue to bake for 20 minutes or so. Tomato sauce will thicken and zucchini will continue to soften as they cook.
- Turn off oven, but leave the pan inside for another 1/2 hour or so. The zucchini will continue to cook and soften as the oven cools.
- Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature, topped with a drizzle of olive oil.
Pamela Haack creates and hosts boutique-style small group tours, artists’ workshops and retreats that are a combination of the very best of Italy: the exciting and the peaceful, the popular and the secret, the talked about and the never-heard-of-before. From art experts and operettas to authentic cooking classes and ancient Etruscans, Pamela helps guests experience the spectacularly beautiful, endlessly interesting cities and countryside of Italy in an up-close and personal way – off the beaten strada.
Pamela is also the author of Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites. She lives with her husband, Lou, in Umbria, Italy.