Grab a crusty loaf of bread for serving, and don't freak out if it gets cold. A slice of this giant stuffed squash happens to be just as nice at room temperature.
Every family has an amateur farmer. Ours is Uncle Bob. Last week he proudly handed me a zucchini that was roughly the size of a toddler and the challenge was on.
Generally, I seek out zucchini that are no longer than about eight inches, or so. The smaller varieties tend to be more flavorful, and less water-logged.
But I wasn’t holding a tiny, tender, zucchini. This baby was well over a foot long and weighed in at almost three pounds. There were a couple of options on the table, including fritters or a shredded zucchini omelette, but in the end, I opted for a giant stuffed zucchini.
As an amateur farmer myself, I trimmed a few basil leaves off my windowsill plant and set to work on this behemoth of a squash. After carving it open, I scooped out most of the mushy flesh and sprinkled the hollowed out zucchini with salt. Left to rest while the stuffing was being prepared, the salt draws out some of the moisture so the end result is less soggy.
Stuffed with a mixture of cheese, brown rice, and ground meat – I used beef, but pork or chicken would be fine – this dish is a complete meal. Grab a crusty loaf of bread for serving, and don’t freak out if it gets cold. A slice of this giant stuffed squash happens to be just as nice at room temperature.
Jumbo Stuffed Zucchini
1 extra large zucchini, about 2 1/2 pounds
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 pound ground beef, chicken, or pork
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Slice the giant zucchini in half. Scoop out the mushy, seedy, interior flesh of the zucchini. There should be about a half-inch to one-inch wall remaining. Sprinkle each half of the zucchini with half a teaspoon of kosher salt and lay them face down on a bed of paper towels, to absorb some of the liquid. Roughly chop the zucchini innards.
- Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the olive oil to the pan. Add the onion, garlic, and chopped zucchini to the pan. Then add the remaining salt, oregano and fennel seeds. Sauté until the onion is translucent, just a few minutes. Then, add the ground meat and cook until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink.
- Increase the heat to high and add the canned tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by about two-thirds. Turn off the heat and allow the meat mixture cool down a bit.
- Once the meat mixture has cooled, stir in the cooked brown rice, beaten eggs, shredded mozzarella cheese, and chopped basil.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Use the remaining olive oil to brush on a large casserole dish. Turn over the giant zucchini and pat them dry with paper towels. Set them, face up, in the casserole dish.
- Spoon the meat filling into the zucchini, and smooth it down with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the tops of the stuffed zucchini with the Parmesan cheese.
- Cover the zucchini with aluminum foil, but not too tightly or it will stick. Place the dish in the oven and cook for thirty minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and cook for an additional thirty minutes, or until the zucchini is cooked through and the top is crispy brown.
- Remove from oven and let rest for ten minutes before slicing. Garnish with additional basil leaves. Slice and serve.
This recipe will yield ten to twelve slices of stuffed zucchini.