Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Pick It, Stuff It: All hail the humble zucchini

Summer has finally slipped into autumn and taken with her many of the wonderful fruits and vegetables of the season.

Summer is my favorite season for cooking. All year long, I think of sweet corn that tastes like sugar, ripe red tomatoes for pasta, jumbo red peppers to roast, and the scent of my little basil garden in the afternoon sun.

But one vegetable seems to hang on a lot longer than others. It’s the humble zucchini. During the summer, I look for small ones to sauté or put in casseroles, but, by now, many of them are the size of baseball bats. I think many people accuse zucchini of having a bland taste. Perhaps they do, but that is what makes them one of the most versatile veggies around.

Sliced zucchini, cherry tomatoes, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese make a great casserole that’s a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken, grilled steaks or pork chops. Zucchini lends unexpected moistness to a “quick bread” made with chocolate, and, for a special treat, try zucchini spears, dipped in batter and fried in olive oil for a very different appetizer. No green bean is as versatile as that!

But my favorite way to serve zucchini is to stuff them. (A good Italian cook will stuff any vegetable, from tomatoes and eggplant to mushrooms and peppers.) The recipe that follows, from the original “Grass Roots Cookbook,” is one I have held on to for over 40 years. It works as a main dish or on a buffet table and is so good with a simple tomato and cucumber salad. It does call for medium-sized zucchini, so you must leave the “baseball bats” at the market.

Sausage Stuffed Zucchini


  • 6 medium zucchini, scrubbed with stems trimmed
  • ½ pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (you can use hot sausage, if you prefer)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper


  • Halve the zucchini lengthwise and then parboil in lightly salted water until just barely tender. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes. It is important not to overcook them, or they will fall apart.
  • When the zucchini halves are crisp-tender, drain them well on paper towels.
  • When they are cool, scrape out the centers with a teaspoon, leaving “walls” about ¼ inch thick.
  • Chop the scooped-out zucchini centers, dab away any remaining moisture, and reserve.
  • Brown the sausage meat in a large, preferably non-stick, skillet or sauté pan over medium heat until no traces of pink remain. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into small, uniform pieces.
  • Add the onion, basil, parsley and oregano to the sausage mixture and stir well. Turn the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and let simmer for about 8 minutes or until the onion is tender.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the reserved chopped zucchini, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, beaten egg and salt and pepper.
  • Fill zucchini shells with the sausage mixture, dividing it evenly and mounding it slightly in the center of each of the 12 shells.
  • Place the filled zucchini in an oiled baking dish that will hold the shells firmly together. Sprinkle extra cheese on the tops if you wish.
  • Bake in a 350-degree oven about 30 minutes. The filling should be hot and slightly browned.

This recipe makes six servings (two zucchini halves each), but save leftovers for another day. The filled zucchini re-heat beautifully and are even good for lunch. If you are making these zucchini for company, place them on a large serving bowl of linguine dressed with olive oil and Parmesan, garnish with sprigs of fresh basil, and you will be hailed as a cooking pro. (Even by those who don’t like zucchini).

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