Aunt Joan’s Zucchini Boats

Large zucchini

I like to say that I grew up “summering” in eastern Iowa. Forget the Cape or some lakeside retreat, my memories of summer involve loads of cousins, green lawns and hills to run around on, sprinklers, pools, tractors, and family. I have such great memories that, to this day, the smell of manure and pork farms is somewhat comforting. (From a distance). Somehow, I’m brought right back to those summer days and nights. 

Fast forward to a summer at some point in my college years. My aunt Joan made, what I like to call, zucchini boats. A huge zucchini, halved lengthwise, and stuffed with cheesy deliciousness. They were so good, I got the recipe from her and even made them in my college house kitchen – the one that slanted so much you could feel yourself walking downhill as you went from the front of the house to the back. Alas, somewhere between 1995 and 12 moves and lots more kitchen challenges, I lost the recipe. But, I never forgot.

fresh herbs

Fast forward to 2008, my husband and I had just bought a house that luckily came with five amazing vegetable beds. And, since it was early September, the plants were rocking. One of the treasures in our inherited garden was a GIANT zucchini. Aunt Joan’s zuke boats immediately came to mind. I had to wing it, since the recipe was lost but I remembered the principles. Halve the zucchini lengthwise, fill it with a mixture of sautéed vegetables, fresh herbs, sausage and cheese. Bake.

Stuffed Zucchini

I’ve more recently learned that those giant zucchini are really just overgrown and can have a bitter taste. So, save the smaller ones for more delicate tasting recipes.  This recipe is perfect for those huge zucchini in your own garden or in bins begging to be purchased at farm stands. And, it's one of those kitchen sink/use what you’ve got kind of recipes. Substitute veggies, add more veggies, substitute cheeses, use ground beef or turkey instead of sausage. It’s so versatile, I’m sure it will save dinner for you one of these nights!


Happy Eating!

Aunt Joan's Zuke Boats

Serves 4-6

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

2 giant zucchini
1 T olive oil
1 red pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2  t dried oregano (or about 1 T fresh)

5 or so basil leaves, chopped
1/2 fennel seeds (optional)
1 pound Italian sausage (turkey sausage works great here), casing removed
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup parmesan cheese (or more cheddar cheese)


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Halve zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving about 3/4 inch around.
  2. Chop the zucchini flesh and reserve. You will probably only need the flesh from one of the zucchinis.
  3. Add sausage to a skillet and saute until brown, about 10 minutes, breaking up the meat as you cook. Remove sausage from skillet and set aside in a bowl.
  4. Wipe down pan, add olive oil and sauté zucchini flesh, peppers and onion until brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and spices, sauté another minute.
  5. Remove from heat, add sausage, cheddar cheese and ricotta to the vegetable mixture so that its creamy and wet.
  6. Stuff each zucchini half with mixture. Top with parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake zucchini boats in a baking pan for about 20 minutes, or until bubbling.


No Comments »

I Can Tell That We Are Going to be Friends

The Story of Lamb Barbacoa This last week or so has been filled with friends – new and old – and thus has been a highlight of the summer. An old friend from my grade school days in Houston was in town for work…and needed a few party platters – what are the odds on […]


Grilled Romaine

Grilled romaine? Really, grilled lettuce? Yes! So easy, so quick. The grill adds a slightly smoky flavor to the lettuce and just slightly wilts the leaves. It’s perfect for a Caesar Salad and also works great with other strong flavors like bleu cheese and bacon. Add a piece of grilled chicken or steak to the […]

No Comments »

Zucchini’s Gift: Squash Blossoms

On my third try growing summer squash this year, I have finally have blossoms and actual squash growing. I know, right? Who can’t grow summer squash? I mean, in late August, you can’t give the stuff away. Somehow, my own summer squash has alluded me. Alas, this year is looking good; and, I have squash […]

1 Comment »

Boatloads of Basil

Every time I see loads of basil springing from my garden or the markets, I think – basil, tomato, mozzarella. Sandwich or salad? The classic combination never gets old for me. But, given the enormous amounts of basil screaming to be picked from my garden, I needed to think up something new to try. I […]


Grilled Balsamic Strawberries

Strawberries! Make me think of summers when I was young, picking strawberries in my grandmother’s strawberry patch, then watching her whip them up into pies and jams.  Who doesn’t love strawberry shortcake (doll or dessert), strawberry pie, or just some berries and cream? Me. I’m not the biggest fruit dessert fan and I was all […]

1 Comment »

Welcome Summer with Barbecued Oysters

Oh sweet, sweet, barbecued oysters. The salty brine…the tangy barbecue sauce…hanging out around the grill waiting until they come off…awkwardly pretending like you didn’t just eat a dozen so it’s definitely your turn to eat the next round. Summer is here. I think barbecued oysters must be big out West, especially in Northern California. The […]

No Comments »

Glamour Flashback: The Mocha Cream Roll

OK, so this recipe doesn’t exactly fall into the ‘making the most of farm-fresh ingredients’ category, but I was in the mood to experiment with baking. And, I’ve been anxious to try more of my grandmother’s recipes from the vault.  Enter the Mocha Roll. Aka, Giant HoHo Filled with Kahlua-Spiked Whipped Cream. There is no […]

1 Comment »

Clara’s Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Aaah!  This post is long overdue.  I took a quick trip to Texas to visit my family which prompted a minor state of depression after returning to a snowstorm from the land of blooming azaleas and temps that start with a 7.  I was also in the midst of making some 11th hour changes to my commercial […]


A Weekend with Carnitas

I think I’ve grown a snout. I was looking for something to do with a giant pork picnic roast I picked up at Smedberg’s, decided on carnitas, and have been enjoyed the tender but crispy meat in all sorts of dishes for days.  Then, without thinking much, I order a BLT for lunch yesterday?  My […]