These Italian sausage zucchini boats are an easy, veggie-packed paleo weeknight dinner! They’re a perfect farewell-to-summer recipe with lots of late-summer eat the rainbow vegetable favorites – tender zucchini, sweet bell peppers, savory fresh tomato marinara, and tangy fresh basil.
It’s the last Saturday in September and I’m definitely sitting her sipping my (lukewarm) coffee wondering “how the heck did that happen?”. I think having an unseasonably warm start to fall toyed with my sense of time and pace. My body’s been feeling the good summer vibes, while my brain is operating in back-to-school
management chaos mode. So it was a total shock to me when Cass came running back in the house this morning, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and declared himself “freezing!!!”. Sure enough, it’s actually cold outside. Which means these Italian sausage zucchini boats are my farewell song to summer. They’re a fitting choice, considering they incorporate lots of my summer eat-the-rainbow favorites – tender zucchini, sweet bell peppers, savory tomato marinara, and lots of fresh basil.
If you’re looking for an easy, veggie packed, paleo weeknight dinner, look no further than these Italian sausage zucchini boats. Start to finish, they’re ready in just under an hour. And they are damn tasty. Let’s be honest here – anything with Italian sausage as a base is going to be good, but once you add in some fresh herbs and tangy marinara you’ve got a pretty epic flavor combination happening.
Italian Sausage Zucchini Boats Recipe Notes
These might look sort of fancy, but anyone can prepare these stuffed zucchini boats with just one simple kitchen tool that I promise you already have – a teaspoon.
You’ll start off by slicing the zucchini in half lengthwise. Holding the zucchini in your left hand and the spoon in your right (or vice versus if you’re a leftie), start at the wide end of the zucchini and gently scrape out the flesh. It will probably take a couple of runs. Stop when you start to feel some resistance. You’ll end up with about a half inch of flesh remaining in the zucchini. It’s best to do this over a large cutting board or bowl so you can collect the flesh – you’ll want to keep that for your filling.
After you create the zucchini boats, rub ’em down with some olive oil and give them a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper. Then set them aside while you making the filling.
This filling is super easy and customizable. I use sweet Italian sausage, onions, garlic, bell peppers, and dried herbs. I fully render the Italian sausage and then add the onions and cook until they’re barely soft. Then I remove the stuffing from heat and mix in the bell peppers and reserved zucchini flesh. I specifically don’t precook the softer vegetables before baking because they’ll retain a nice bite, which keeps the texture tender but not mushy.
Other great add-ins? Eggplant, fresh corn, chopped tomatoes, carrots, celery…you get the picture. Any vegetable that can bake in about 20 minutes is fair game. If you’re not into the paleo-thing, add a few handfuls of grated parmesan to the filling before you stuff the zucchini boats, and sprinkle on a little more once they come out of the oven.
These Italian sausage zucchini boats bake up in about 20 minutes. Then I pop them under the broiler for another few minutes to get the sausage just a little bit crispy. Mmmm, crispy sausage. Top off that hot, tasty mess with some fresh tomato marinara and scads of fresh basil. Dinner is served my friends.
Looking for the perfect marinara sauce to top these beauties with? Look no further than my recipe for easy fresh tomato marinara!
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- Cast Iron Skillet
- 3 medium zucchini, about 2 lb
- 2 tbsp avocado or olive oil
- kosher salt
- cracked black pepper
- 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed and broken into small pieces
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- pinch dried oregano
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 c. marinara sauce
- 1 tbsp basil, chopped or julienned
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Slice the zucchini lengthwise. With a spoon or melon baller, remove the pulp from the zucchini and set aside. Rub the zucchini halves, inside and out, with 1 tbsp oil, then sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Lay the zucchini, cut side up, in a baking dish. Dice the pulp into ½” pieces.
- Heat a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the remain tbsp of oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, stirring frequently to break up the pieces, until the fat is rendered the sausage is no longer pink, 6 minutes. Add the thyme, parsley, oregano and onion and saute, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and zucchini pulp, stir to incorporate, and then remove from heat.
- Scoop the sausage and vegetable mixture into the zucchini boats. Bake until the zucchini is tender and can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, 20 minutes. Flip the oven to broiler, and broil until the sausage is crispy, 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the marinara over a small sauce pot until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Remove from the oven and top each zucchini boat with the warm marinara, then sprinkle with fresh basil, and serve immediately.