Meatball Marinara-Ish Stuffed Zucchini Boats Recipe

When life (or your gardening neighbor) hands you zucchinis, you can't just make zucchini-ade, so you might be looking for other ways to repurpose the stuff. If you're bored with zucchini bread and don't want to swap out pasta for zoodles, you could always try making zucchini boats instead. As developer Milena Manolova describes her recipe, "The savory meatballs and rich marinara sauce complement the mild, tender zucchini, and the melted cheese on top creates a rich, satisfying, and well-balanced dish." She notes that zucchini is also gluten-free and lower in carbohydrates than pasta, plus it has fiber and vitamins.

Here, Manolova is using a combination of pork and beef to make the meatballs. She says that while you could use beef alone, the meatballs might be a bit dry. "The addition of pork," she explains, "adds more fat and makes the meatballs more juicy." The meatballs also get what she calls "a hint of sweet and tart flavor" from the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, something she says compliments the tomato-based marinara sauce.

Collect the ingredients for the meatball marinara-ish stuffed zucchini boats

The "boats" in this recipe are made from zucchini coated with olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. The meatballs are made from ground beef and pork plus onions, parsley, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and an egg. The final ingredients needed to top off the dish are marinara sauce and mozzarella.

Prepare the zucchini

Preheat the oven to 375 F before you start cooking (350 F if you have a convection oven). Once the oven is heating, cut off the ends from each zucchini, then cut them in half lengthwise. Hollow them out and remove the cores to make the boat shapes.

Put the zucchini in a baking pan greased with some oil, then brush the rest of the oil over the insides of the vegetables. Sprinkle them with the Italian seasoning plus some salt and pepper.

Make the meatballs

Mix the ground beef and pork with the onion, parsley, garlic, tomatoes, egg, and the rest of the salt and pepper. Use this mixture to form 32 meatballs each about 1 ½ inches in diameter, then divide the meatballs between the zucchini (this works out to 4 balls per boat).

Bake the zucchini boats

Put the zucchini boats on the middle rack and cook them for 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked and brown. Manolova notes that the cooking time may vary depending on the size of the zucchini and the oven but cautions, "Overcooking can result in mushy zucchini boats while under-cooking can leave them too firm."

Take the pan out of the oven momentarily, long enough to cover each boat and its meatball cargo with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Back into the oven it goes for another 15 minutes to melt the cheese. 

Be sure to eat the zucchini boats while they are still hot. If you have leftovers, you can refrigerate them for up to 3 days, but Manolova says they can't be frozen since thawing will adversely affect the texture.

Meatball Marinara-Ish Stuffed Zucchini Boats Recipe
5 from 24 ratings
In this recipe, meatballs and marinara sauce complement mild, tender zucchini, and melted cheese on top creates a rich, satisfying, and well-balanced dish.
Prep Time
Cook Time
zucchini with meatballs and marinara
Total time: 45 minutes
  • 4 medium (approximately 8 inch) zucchini
  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ¾ cup minced yellow onion
  • ¼ cup finely-chopped parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (350 F convection).
  2. Cut off both ends of each zucchini and slice them in half lengthwise.
  3. Remove the cores of each zucchini and brush the insides with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle the zucchini with Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and put it in a pan greased with the remaining oil.
  5. Combine the ground meats with the onion, parsley, garlic, tomatoes, egg, and remaining salt and pepper.
  6. Form the meat into 32 balls, approximately 1 ½ inch in diameter.
  7. Put 4 meatballs in each zucchini.
  8. Bake the zucchini and meatballs on the middle rack for about 20 minutes or until the meatballs look golden brown on top.
  9. Top each zucchini boat with marinara sauce to cover the meatballs, then finish off with a layer of cheese.
  10. Bake the zucchini boats for 15 minutes until the cheese melts, then serve immediately.
Calories per Serving 473
Total Fat 34.5 g
Saturated Fat 13.5 g
Trans Fat 0.7 g
Cholesterol 124.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 11.5 g
Dietary Fiber 2.8 g
Total Sugars 6.4 g
Sodium 779.0 mg
Protein 28.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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