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Recipe List for Zucchini

A delicious twist on basic spaghetti:  Baking it with spinach, sausage and cheese melds the flavors deliciously and creates a one-dish meal that’s almost as good as lasagna—without all the work.  Use a smaller or larger amount of meat, as desired, or omit completely for a vegetarian version.

Serves:  4

Money Saver

This already low-cost dish can be made even more economical by stuffing it with homemade chili, one of the cheapest dishes around.  Make a batch for dinner one night, then use up the leftovers in this dish.  Save even more by making the chili with your own slow cooker beans (instructions on blog).  Making the vegetarian version (below) will save dollars, too.  

Vegetarian Option

For the hamburger, substitute ½ cup Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) or 1 cup cooked brown rice.  Add to chili, then cook 5 minutes, as directed.  There is no need to reconstitute TVP before adding to chili; should chili get too thick from the TVP, simply add a little broth.    

Casserole Option for Smaller Squash

For squash that aren’t big enough to be stuffed, slice vertically into slabs about ¼” thick.  Layer half in an oiled, 8 x 8 glass baking dish topped by half of each of Parmesan cheese, chili mixture and chips.  Repeat layers, cover with a dinner plate and microwave about 3 minutes, turn and microwave another 3 minutes.  Then bake and top with cheese as directed for stuffed squash.     

Ingredient Notes

1.  Zucchini  Any of the varieties of summer squash can be used for this dish, the main criteria being size.  The squash must have cavities ample enough for a generous amount of savory stuffing (See the optional preparation notes below for smaller squash.)  While large squash are good, watch out for ones that are too big or that have been left in the garden for too long, as their skins become quite tough and unappealing.     

2. Canned Chili My favorite canned chili is Amy’s Black Bean.  Health Valley is a close second.  While spicy, medium and mild versions are available in both brands, I have found that zucchini benefits from a spicier chili, i.e., at least medium.   

3.  Dairy-Free Option The chili and chips in this dish are flavorful enough that cheese is not necessary on top.  instead of using Parmesan cheese to boost the flavor in the shells, sprinkle them with ¼ tsp. sea salt and ½ to 1 tsp. of chili powder, depending upon your fondness for spiciness.

4.  Use Up Corn Chip Scraps This dish is a great way to use up the small pieces of corn chips left in the bottom of the bag.  Before using, shake off excess salt accumulations, if any.   

This hearty, satisfying casserole is possible even on weeknights with the help of canned chili and the microwave to jumpstart the baking.  It’s an especially good way to use up those monster zucchini you don’t find in the garden until too late!  If you aren’t saddled with any monsters big enough for stuffing, see the notes for a casserole version using smaller specimens.  Also note how the zucchini is “flavored” with Parmesan cheese before stuffing.   



1 lrg. zucchini, about 12” long and 3 lbs. (or 2 med. zucchini about 1½ to 2 lbs. each)

Prepare the Zucchini “Shells” Slice ends off zucchini.  (Be careful not to slice off more than necessary, as this will compromise the ends of your zucchini “shell.”)   Slice squash in half lengthwise, then scoop out seeds and enough pulp to leave a shell about ½” thick.  Place shells cut side down in microwaveable baking dish, cover with lid or glass plates (to avoid plastic).  Microwave on high for 3 minutes, rotate dish, then microwave another 3 minutes.  Repeat process one more time if necessary to soften shells slightly, e.g., for older or larger squash or for less powerful microwaves.       

½ lb. hamburger

2 cans chili  

Prepare the “Stuffing”  Preheat oven to 400 (F).  While zucchini cooks in microwave, brown hamburger in a medium skillet over medium high heat.  Stir in chili, cover pan, lower heat to medium low and continue cooking until chili is warmed through, about 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning.


½  cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 ½ cup lightly crushed corn chips

1-2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese, to taste (optional)

Stuff and Bake  Remove zucchini from microwave and turn cut side up.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pepper, then use a fork to lightly prick the bottom of shells so flavors can better penetrate.

Pile generous amounts of chili stuffing into shell cavities, then spread corn chips evenly over the top.  Cover with foil and bake about 30 minutes, until shells are very tender, but not mushy.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese, if desired, and return to oven, uncovered, for just a minute or two to melt cheese.

If possible, allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.   

Making Zucchini Shells

Although this dish is covered with foil for baking, that doesn’t require a brand new piece of aluminum foil.  True, the dull, crinkled stuff from last week’s lasagna (or a package of tamales) may not look so good, but using reused foil will sure make you feel good about taking some small steps for the environment and those who live near bauxite mines.   Find out why in The Green Kitchen

© 2009 Culinary Concepts, Inc., Boulder CO

But don’t pitch the innards!  They may look like waste, but combine with leftover pizza sauce from Open-Faced Italian Sandwiches  for a soup that puts them to delicious use–and is fast enough for the lunchbox.  Wouldn’t something other than sandwiches be great?

Use a large metal soup spoon with a thin, almost sharp, edge that can easily pierce the squash’s flesh.  Use the point to score around the outer edge of seed mass, then dig down under mass, lifting it out, piece by piece.  

The finished dish tastes great either with or without cheese.   I used Que Pasa’s Red Corn Chips for some nice color.   

Another Good Stuffing Zucchini

I just discovered another variety of zucchini at our market that is an even better stuffer than oversized regular zucchinis.  The Magda,’s short, squat shape provides a generous space for flavorful fillings .  

Chili-Stuffed Squash

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