Penelope lived in Tuscany among the olive groves and farms for years, learning from local people about their culture, land, and food.
It's the garden-fresh ingredients of this stuffed zucchini/courgettes recipe, flavored with a touch of anchovy from the sea and a dash of white wine, which makes it taste like Mediterranean cooking.
Add to this a touch of culinary expertise, and these simple foods are transformed into an easy, summery European meal or party-plate for any season (even on a buffet table at Christmas)—in any part of the world.
My article offers tips on how to prepare all the ingredients for this Mediterranean recipe the Italian way—so you'll feel the sun when you see it and when you taste it. (There is a quick recipe for how to make a pasta sauce with the pulp at the end of this article.)
If you aren't an anchovy sort of person, then you can happily change the anchovy ingredient to tuna fish. You could use freshly chopped parsley instead of fennel or dill if you prefer. It's a truly simple Mediterranean dish, and improvising is the name of the game. (It makes a great meatless meal!)
If you don't have wine in the house, then use water instead. In fact, if you use the tuna fish/parsley combination, water may even be better, because the stuffing flavors are milder too.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
1 hour 15 min
Serves three main course meals or six appetizers
- 6 zucchini, medium sized, straight, darker green
- 3–4 slices white bread, soaked in water, squeeze dried
- 1 large tablespoon extra virgin oilive oil
- 1 tablespoon dill flowers/ seeds or fennel flower/seeds, chopped fine
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, black or white
- 1 small can anchovies, in olive oil
- 2 tablespoon olive oil, extra virgin
- 1–2 cloves garlic, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
- 1/2 tube tomato puree/paste, generous 1/2 tube
- pinch salt, small
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper, black or white
- 1/2 cup white wine, dry
- Scoop out zucchini with a zucchini corer or an apple corer.
- Mash the anchovies in a small dish.
- Mix the bread mixture together with the extra virgin olive oil, chopped dill, pepper and the anchovies.
- Fill the zucchini with this stuffing.
- Put the oven on at 375° F.
- Brown garlic in the extra virgin olive oil.
- Add tomato puree, pinch salt (or not), pepper and white wine.
- Cook for 10–15 minutes.
- Pour sauce over the bottom of a baking dish.
- Place the zucchini in this sauce and bake, covered, in the oven.
- Turn the zucchini over half way through baking time
- They are ready when tender to the touch—(you may remove the cover about ten minutes before time, if you like).
Tips for Using Garlic
Sometimes there is a shoot growing inside the cloves of garlic. This means the garlic isn't too fresh. That's fine, as long as you remove the little shoot. It's harder to digest, people say it causes bad breath and in Italy they say it gives you heartburn.
Cut the garlic open in two and simply take it out with a small paring knife.
Tips for Buying and Storing Zucchini
The zucchinis (also known as courgettes in many countries) have to be very fresh because if not, they will be bendy and difficult to core. When purchasing them at an open market, ask how fresh they are, or, if you buy them at a supermarket, look at the packing date on the label. Avoid buying them if picked more than two or maximum three days prior.
The zucchini can't be too small or too big. Remember the size of your baking dish.
They have to be very straight—because coring a bent one will be impossible!
If you aren't going to cook with the zucchini the same day, take them out of their plastic packaging. The plastic will make them sweat, and the hardness will go.
If you won't be using them the same day, then you could keep them out of the refrigerator and out of their packaging for a day or two in a cool place. This way, they retain their natural freshness and firmness.
Before making this recipe, top and tail the zucchini and try them out for size in your baking dish to make sure that they will fit.
Dill Flowers or Seeds
Not everyone has a field of wild fennel growing outside their house as we do here in Tuscany, (we even have olive trees to produce the extra virgin olive oil used here), so if you don't, then fennel seeds or dill are just as good for this recipe. If you don't happen to have it in your cooking cupboards, then use freshly chopped parsley!
But if you happen to be out walking in late Summer, in September, you might see wild fennel growing in the hedgerows. It's a common plant. The yellow flowers are delicious, so you can pick them and scrape them off their stems and keep them in a jar with some salt for the winter.
I used both the flowers and some seeds because there is more density of flavor in the seeds.
Tips for Serving
Stuffed zucchini look best served from their own baking dish. A handsome looking Mediterranean meal looks at home in a rustic terra cotta dish—or white porcelain. A Pyrex dish is nice too and would improve 'ethnically' if you placed it on the serving table on a straw or a cork mat or a Spanish looking, Indian, or French placemat, something that says "I'm from Europe!"
Even if you don't yet have a super serving dish, it's still best not to move the stuffed zucchini from their baking dish because the tomato sauce has condensed beneath them—you would lose a lot of it transferring onto another dish.
If you like this recipe, please rate it! Thanks.
Pasta Sauce With Zucchini Pulp
The zucchini pulp that you cored-out makes a simple pasta sauce. Nothing goes to waste. You can throw it together in the time it takes the pasta water to come to boil.
- Put a large pan of water on to boil (for the pasta).
- Pour a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a saucepan.
- Brown a clove of garlic (cored and cut into four).
- Add the zucchini pulp and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover.
- Cook for about 10–15 minutes, till the zucchini has all softened.
- Add half a tin of chopped tomatoes, mix it in and cook for another five minutes.
- Put your pasta on to boil—a short type of pasta such as penne would be ideally suited.
- Drain it (aldente) and mix with the sauce.
- Sprinkle some Parmesan over it.
© 2012 Penelope Hart
Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on July 10, 2014:
Wow! Thanks for your comment and social network clicks! Appreciate it.
Hope you really enjoy this dish. In Italy zucchini are in season so it's the perfect time to make this dish!
Patsy Bell Hobson from zone 6a, Southeast Missouri, USA on July 08, 2014:
You have opened my eyes. This is a new recipe idea to me. I like the completeness of this hub, i.e. including info about pasta, garlic and what to do with the carved out zucchini pulp. Voted up, U, I, Tweet, Pin and sharing.
Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on May 09, 2013:
Home grown zucchini Susan! How delicious. You will enjoy this recipe, I know you will.
Glad you like the pictures Writer Fox. I really enjoy getting into taking them when I'm preparing food.
It's much more Mediterranean Bobbi and hope you will enjoy the difference.
moonlake, I appreciate your vote. Glad you'll enjoy the recipe with your home grown produce.
Thanks everyone for commenting. I do appreciate it. Penelope
moonlake from America on May 07, 2013:
Looks good and sounds delicious. I always have so much zucchini in the summer. Voted up.
Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on May 07, 2013:
This sound delicious and is very different from any recipe I have used with Zucchini. I mainly cook mine with Summer Yellow Squash with bacon bits and oinions.
Thanks for sharing.
Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on May 07, 2013:
Wow! I love your detailed instructions and all the great pictures.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 07, 2013:
This looks great! I'm planting zucchini's this year so I'll pin your recipe so that I can make it later in the summer.
Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on December 01, 2012:
jellygator from USA on November 30, 2012:
Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on October 22, 2012:
It will taste delicious, promise! Let me know. Thanks for comments!
Michael on October 22, 2012:
Wow, It certainly looks really good. I can only hope it will taste that good as well when I give cooking it a try! I really enjoyed how you illustrated each step with pictures. Thanks for the great recipe.
Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on October 12, 2012:
Hope you really enjoyed it carol7777. The ingredients are full of taste and very balanced - moist too. Thanks.
ThompsonPen Thanks so much for putting this recipe up on Pinterest! I hope you LOVE it. (It is delicious, really) Thanks so much for your really great comment (sorry you were hungry when you read it!)
2patricia. Hope your husband like this as much as lasagne! It's different. Thanks for indexing and hope you come back to try it time and time again. Thanks for dropping by.
2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on October 12, 2012:
This looks delicious. I'm always looking for other ways to cook lasagne. My husband loves Italian food, so this may get tested in my kitchen.
Meanwhile, I am adding this to my Recipe Index for HubPages (under Courgettes).
Nicola Thompson from Bellingham, WA on October 07, 2012:
I actually came across this on the Hub Hopper and had to come back so I could comment on it. This looks soooooo delicious! I am of course extremely hungry at the moment, but I cannot wait to try this out. Well done on this hub, and thanks for giving such a creatively delicious idea. I love zucchini, but I often don't know what to do with it.
Also, I am excitedly putting this up on Pintrest :)
carol stanley from Arizona on October 06, 2012:
This is a most interesting vegetable dish. I like the way it looks and all the ingredients. Gotta try it.
Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on September 26, 2012:
B. Leekley. Well thank you so much for your wonderful votes and sharing. You could even make this dish when you find those zucchini any time of the year. Hope you really enjoy it.
cvanthul. If you don't want to use the fish, perhaps a little chopped tomato, or even finely chopped bacon could do the trick! Glad you love the recipe, it's so tasty.
Cristina Vanthul from Florida on September 25, 2012:
Love this recipe, though I'm not a fish fan at all, but I'm sure there are many other ingredients that can be used instead. Thanks for sharing this and all the useful information within the hub.
Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on September 25, 2012:
Sounds very good. 10-10-10. Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared. Hub is very well written and designed. If I ever get into cooking, one of these summers I'll try this recipe. I hope someone serves it at a church potluck.
Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on September 11, 2012:
jimmythejock. It really is easy and so is the pasta sauce! Hope you love it.
wilderness. It's just as good with tuna so you and your wife have a great meal.
Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on September 10, 2012:
I'm with Natashalh - anchovies are my bag of tea. Might try it with tuna, though, as my wife and I both like tuna.
Jimmy the jock from Scotland on September 10, 2012:
Love it, but have never tried it stuffed something new for my family to try and you make it look so easy. thanks Goodlady....jimmy
Natasha from Hawaii on September 10, 2012:
Tuna I like. I just had a tuna sandwich for lunch!
Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on September 10, 2012:
Yes!!! You can!! How are you with tuna fish? Tuna and parsley is just as delicious. (Same quantities). Maybe I should write that into the Hub.
Natasha from Hawaii on September 10, 2012:
I love zucchini , I'm just not really sold on anchovies. I love the idea of coring and stuffing zucchini, though. I wonder if I could modify this to have something other than anchovies. Hmmmm....