Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

$6.98 recipe / $0.87 per piece
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.90 from 28 votes
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I look at the photo of these Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats and I’m all like, “Oooh, that looks delicious. …but are probably complicated and a million ingredients.” But no, my friends, no. It’s not complicated and it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients! Making a fancy pants meal like this is surprisingly easy!

Two Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini boats in a bowl over a bed of rice with a striped napkin in back

Why Stuff Zucchini?

You might be thinking, who or why did anyone ever think to stuff zucchini?? Stuffing zucchini is a pretty common way to prepare zucchini and for good reason. A) Anyone who grows zucchini knows that you always have a bumper crop. Stuffing zucchini is a great way to use up all those zucchini extras. B) Zucchini has a fairly neutral flavor, so you can combine it with any number of flavors, including the Italian lasagna-like flavors in this dish. C) It’s a great, fiber-filled vehicle for delicious stuff. If you’re trying to make a swap to less refined carbs, zucchini can be a great alternative.

Can You Freeze Stuffed Zucchini?

Yes! Stuffed Zucchini make a great make-ahead freezer meal. Simply freeze the stuffed zucchini laying flat on a lined baking sheet until they’re solid (about 2 hours), then wrap tightly and place in a heavy duty freezer bag. Keep your frozen stuffed zucchini for about 3 months. They can be reheated in the microwave or oven (350ºF until heated through, total time will depend on the size of your zucchini, but about 30 minutes).

What to Serve with Stuffed Zucchini

I served my Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini with a little seasoned rice and called it a day, but it would also be good over pasta. OR, just eat the zucchini boats by themselves. They’re quite filling!

Do you Eat the Skin on the Zucchini??

Yes, you can eat the skin and do not have to try to scoop the stuffed zucchini out of the skin. Zucchini skin is very delicate and thin, so it’s almost unnoticeable when you eat it. Plus, it’s full of nutrients! :)

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini is a simple, flavorful, and lighter alternative to lasagna. BudgetBytes.com

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

4.90 from 28 votes
Italian sausage stuffed zucchini are a great alternative to lasagna with flavorful Italian sausage, red sauce, and cheese baked into tender zucchini.
Servings 8 pieces
Prep 10 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 55 mins

Ingredients

  • 4 medium zucchini (6-7" long) ($2.36)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage (mild, hot, or sweet) ($2.00)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs ($0.20)
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend* ($0.76)
  • 24 oz. jar pasta sauce ($1.29)
  • Salt and pepper to taste ($0.05)

Instructions 

  • Wash the zucchini well, then slice each one in half lengthwise. Use a spoon or a melon baller to remove the flesh from the center of the zucchini halves, leaving a 1/4 inch rim around each. Place the scooped out zucchini halves in a 9x13" casserole dish or on a large baking sheet. Roughly chop the scooped out zucchini flesh into small pieces and set aside.
  • Add the olive oil and Italian sausage to a large skillet and sauté over medium heat. Break the sausage up into small pieces as you sauté and cook until the sausage is thoroughly browned (about 5 minutes). Drain off the excess fat.
  • Add the minced garlic and chopped zucchini to the skillet and continue to sauté until the zucchini pieces are soft (about 5 minutes more). Remove the skillet from the heat.
  • Begin to preheat the oven to 375ºF. Transfer the sautéed sausage and zucchini to a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, and 1/4 cup of the pasta sauce. Stir until everything is evenly combined. Taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed.
  • Stuff the scooped out zucchini halves with the sausage mixture. Pour the remaining pasta sauce over the zucchini, leaving some of the stuffing exposed so it can brown and crisp up. It's okay if you don't use all the sauce.
  • Bake the zucchini in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the stuffing is brown and crispy and the zucchini are tender. Add the remaining shredded cheese and continue to bake for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve hot.

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Notes

*The cheese blend I used was a mixture of Parmesan, Provolone, Mozzarella, and Asiago. If you can't find a similar blend, you can use finely shredded mozzarella.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 231.66kcalCarbohydrates: 16.7gProtein: 11.21gFat: 13.35gSodium: 805.2mgFiber: 2.79g
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Like stuffed vegetables? Check out my Roasted Eggplant with Meat Sauce.

How to Make Stuffed Zucchini Boats – Step by Step Photos

Four zucchini cut in half, one with the insides scooped out

Start with four medium-sized zucchini (6-7″ long). Wash them well, then slice each one in half lengthwise. Use a spoon or melon baller to scoop the flesh out of the center, leaving a 1/4-1/2″ rim around each one. Place the scooped out zucchinis in a 9×13″ casserole dish, or on a baking sheet. 

Chopped Zucchini Flesh

Don’t throw away the zucchini flesh that you scooped out of the center! Roughly chop it into small pieces because it will be mixed in with the Italian sausage. You want to make the pieces roughly the size of crumbled sausage. Set the chopped zucchini aside.

Browned Italian Sausage in the skillet with a wooden spoon

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 lb. Italian sausage to a large skillet. Sauté over medium heat, breaking up the sausage as it cooks, until it is thoroughly browned (about five minutes). Drain off the excess fat. I bought a package of 5 links which were about 4oz. each. I used two links and froze the rest. Because I wanted crumbled sausage, I just squeezed the meat out of the casing into the skillet.

Chopped zucchini added to browned sausage in the skillet

Add the chopped zucchini pieces and two cloves of minced garlic to the skillet. Continue to sauté until the zucchini is soft (another 5 minutes or so). Remove the skillet from the heat. Begin to preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Mixed Zucchini and Sausage Stuffing

Transfer the cooked sausage and zucchini to a large bowl, then add 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, 1/4 cup pasta sauce, and 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend. Stir until everything is combined, then taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed.

Italian Cheese Blend package

Italian cheese blends like this can be found in most major grocery stores now, but if you can’t find something similar, you can just use finely shredded mozzarella. Mine was also on sale for $1.50. Woot!!

Filled raw zucchini boats

Finally, stuff the zucchini with the prepared filling. 

Red sauce being poured over stuffed zucchini boats

Pour the rest of your 24oz. jar of sauce (or most of it) over the stuffed zucchini. I just poured two strips of sauce over the dish so that some of the stuffing would remain exposed and get nice and crispy in the oven.

Stuffed Zucchini Topped with Cheese

Bake the zucchini in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the stuffing is brown and crispy on the edges and the zucchini have softened some. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and then bake for 2-3 minutes more, or until the cheese is melty.

Baked Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats in the glass casserole dish

And then you have THIS. (I garnished with chopped parsley for the photos, but it’s not necessary.)

Front view of baked Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Seriously. Look at that.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats served on a bed of seasoned rice, garnished with parsley

And yet somehow these Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini taste even better than they look. 🙌

LOVE ZUCCHINI? TRY THESE ZUCCHINI RECIPES:

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini is a simple, flavorful, and lighter alternative to lasagna. BudgetBytes.com
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  1. Made this a few weeks ago and planning on making it again tonight. I used Morning Star “beef” crumbles instead of Italian sausage and added Italian seasoning while frying it up. It was delicious!

  2. This was AMAZING!!  I made it exactly by the recipe. Totally sharing this. Thanks for sharing it. 

  3. Love this! I had an abundance and nothing but a cupboard, so I used ground beef and a jar of Indian Butter Chicken sauce – no need for garlic, or any other spices! Two thumbs up from hubby. Yellow squash a bit more delish than zuchinni, but both great. Fan since 2018~

  4. I just made this recipe for my husband and I for lunch and it was so good and quite filling. We just had the zucchini boats by themselves. Now I feel energized to do our workout. This is a good meal that will fill you up and not make you feel STUFFED or heavy. We will definitely be making this at least once a week for a lighter and healthier lunch rather than a sub sandwich a d chips or burger and fries LOL

  5. My family and i have been making alot of budget bytes recipes these last few days and this one right here was an instant hit in our household. The aroma from our kitchen had our neighbors asking for the recipe. Simple to make in my opinion. ty for this recipe

  6. Made these tonight! They were amazing! I have quite a few of your recipes in my rotation.

  7. I made these and they were delicious. However, the stuffing came out very soft and didn’t crisp up during baking. Zucchini is very watery, and I’m wondering if draining extra liquid from the scooped out zucchini pieces before adding them to the pan would have made a firmer stuffing and allowed it to crisp up. What do you think?

    1. That might help, or you can try baking without the red sauce on top and just add that in the last few minutes. :)

      1. I always cook my chopped zucchini from the inside a lot until most of the water is out, set it aside, and then cook the sausage and it makes the perfect amount of stuffing/not watery.

  8. Just a note, this recipe and the baked ziti are missing from the “Italian cheese” recipe index. 

  9. This looks incredible! Do you have any substitution advice for replacing the tomato sauce? I normally follow your recipes to the letter, but my partner can’t eat tomato sauce/cooked tomatoes, and this looks too good to pass on!

    1. I bet they’d be good just topped with more cheese! Something nice and melty, like mozzarella.

      1. Thanks so much for getting back to me!! In the oven now – fingers crossed! Can’t go wrong with more cheese. 

  10. This was a very good recipe. I sauteed some mushrooms with the sausage and served with rice as suggested.