This past week, I’d been craving pasta like nobody’s business. I think it was because the previous week, we’d gone out with a friend to Olive Garden for the endless pasta dinner special, where I ate some whole wheat linguine with roast chicken and marinara (which was good, but I won’t do it again). I think having that gave me an Italian food jones something awful, and so I thought about things I could make at home with the ingredients I had access to. The week before, I’d bought two large zucchini squash and had picked up some hot Italian sausage at Central Market. I decided to make stuffed zucchini–it was easy, filling and really tasty.
You will need:
- 2 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise and cut in halves
- 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage*
- 1 cup instant brown rice, uncooked
- 1 1/4 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 28 ounce can tomato puree
*certainly, ground chicken or turkey sausage could also be used here as well; pork sausage was what I had access to. For vegetarians, I think I’d probably mince up 3 cups of Portobellos sautéed with onions, garlic and red pepper flakes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until completely done. While the sausage is cooking, cut the zucchini in half vertically, then slice them lengthwise. Take a grapefruit spoon or melon baller (or something that scoops that has a sharp edge to it) to scoop out the pulpy middle of the squash. Reserve this pulpy goodness in a bowl. Lay the hollowed zucchini quarters in a 13 x 9 baking dish. You do not need to grease the dish, as there will be plenty of liquid to prevent the zucchini from sticking to the bottom of the dish.
Once the sausage is done, drain it and return to the pan, and add the garlic, stirring to distribute it evenly throughout, cooking at medium-high heat. Add in the zucchini pulp, again, stirring to evenly distribute it throughout the meat, cooking for about 10 minutes until the pulp really isn’t so visible. You are adding the pulp back in to add moisture to help the rice cook and to add a bit more fiber. Add in the half cup of water and then stir in the instant rice until it is well-distributed. Stir in 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese until it melts throughout the mixture. Turn off the heat to the skillet, and stuff the zucchini quarters, mounding the filling into each quarter. Pour the can of tomato puree over all the zucchini quarters, and sprinkle the top of the baking dish with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely browned.
This recipe serves 4, or two really hungry adults, as it did the night I made it. It is lovely with a bit of garlic bread and a salad. You could serve it over pasta if you wanted.