Lately I have been in the mood for lasagna…ooey, gooey, cheesy, savory, meaty, soul-satisfying lasagna….it is truly one of the best comfort foods. It is one of my all time favorite Italian dishes, but since I have been trying to stay away from pasta lately I have resisted the urge to layer up this Italian favorite. I have made versions of lasagna with slices of zucchini, squash and eggplant in place of the pasta and it is delish…but its also a little more effort than I wanted to put into a weeknight dinner. I needed to come up with something simple, but impressive will all of the yumminess of lasagna.
So, when the girls and I were at the grocery store for our weekly trip and I saw these big, fat zucchinis I knew just what to do…stuff them with all the yummy, cheesy lasagna goodness that I love! So that is just what I did and Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini was born!
This meal is simple enough for a weeknight meal but still impresses! I would not hesitate to make this for a dinner party or company on a Saturday night. Usually when I hear the word “stuffed”, I think it will take me twice as long and on a busy weeknight I just don’t have time for extra steps! These stuffed zucchini take no time at all. The zucchini are a snap to make into stuff-able little boats and the filling cooks up in the time that the zucchinis are hanging out in the oven to start getting tender.
When making the filling for the Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini, I knew I didn’t want it saucy like a traditional spaghetti sauce, so I opted to just use diced tomatoes in the filling. I made two versions of these to test…one with ricotta and one without. You see, the Cowboy does not care for lasagna because of the ricotta. He says it can get “gritty” and he just doesn’t like the texture. So I left the ricotta out of a few to see which he liked the best. Well when he came home they were just coming out of the oven in all their glory…beautiful! Isn’t it amazing how when food looks so pretty you are that much more excited to eat it?!
Well, I served him up one of the pieces without the ricotta and nothing….no reaction. Well I knew that wasn’t good. Then I put a ramekin in front of him that had the filling with the ricotta. I had a tiny bit leftover and was out of zucchini so I baked off in a little ramekin. After tasting the filling Maddie had already laid claim to the leftover filling but she got beat to the punch!
He tasted the filling out of the ramekin and nodded his head and I knew it was a keeper! Then he asked why the ones in the zucchini tasted so different and I had to explain that I left the ricotta out of some to see which he liked better. He declared hands down…the ricotta makes this dish. Indeed it does!
This dish has few ingredients so you want to use the best ingredients you can…don’t skimp on the quality of the ricotta because it will make all the difference in the dish! I use BelGioioso Ricotta con Latte whole milk ricotta. It is the best I have found and my favorite for using in sweet and savory dishes. I have used it in a sweet filling for my favorite cream cheese pancakes and it’s incredible! It is soft and super creamy with a slightly sweet finish and its very affordable. I also used San Marzano diced tomatoes but feel free to use what diced tomatoes you have on hand.
These gorgeous zucchini satisfy every craving I have for lasagna and without all that pasta getting in the way of that decadent, creamy cheese and meat filling. I even managed to sneak some spinach in the filling for good measure! The filling for these Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini would also be fantastic with sweet or hot Italian Sausage in place of half the ground meat. I used bison here but your could use any type of ground meat you have on hand…even veggie crumbles to make it a vegetarian dish. The amounts here will easily fill 4 large zucchini split lengthwise into 8 halves. To hollow out the zucchini, simply use a small spoon or melon baller to remove seeds.
Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini are a busy moms secret weapon to conquering a busy weeknight meal. No one will ever know you only dirtied one pan for this stunning meal! A one pan wonder at its best!
Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini
Ricotta & Spinach Stuffed Zucchini satisfy every craving I have for lasagna without all the pasta getting in the way of that decadent, creamy cheese and meat filling. Quick enough for a week night meal or to impress guests!
- 4 large zucchini
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium purple onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb ground meat (bison, venison, beef, turkey, pork or veggie crumbles)
- 1 14.5 oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes with garlic & basil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 cup whole milk Ricotta con Latte
- 1 1/4 cup mozzarella or provolone, finely shredded
- 11/2 cups baby spinach
- 1/4 tsp dried Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper
- Fresh Basil for garnish (optional)
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve zucchini lengthwise and using a spoon scoop out the seeds and flesh leaving about 1/4 inch border. Place zucchini cute side up on a parchment lines baking sheet. Lightly rub or brush the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- Step 2 Place zucchini in oven and roast until tender, 8-10 minutes.
- Step 3 While zucchini is in the oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. When oil is shimmering add onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add ground meat, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper to pan with onions. Continue to cook until meat is browned are caramelized.
- Step 4 When meat is brown and yummy, add diced tomatoes, basil and Italian seasoning. Continue to cook for 3-4 more minutes.
- Step 5 Remove meat filling from heat and add Parmesan cheese, ricotta, 3/4 cup of mozzarella and spinach. Mix gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Step 6 Spoon filling generously into zucchini. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella and return to oven to bake for an additional 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
- Step 7 Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!