In my family, there’s an unwritten rule when it comes to stuffing vegetables: Eggplants call for ground beef; bell peppers for white rice and cheese; tomatoes for breadcrumbs and fresh herbs; and zucchini for canned tuna, breadcrumbs, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
My mum is in charge of eggplants and peppers: she bakes these vegetables often during the good season, creating tasty meals that can be easily reheated the day after. My grandmother, meanwhile, is the one who often prepares the stuffed zucchini, a recipe she always makes into the same pot, with the same ingredients.
The secret is using part of the zucchini pulp for the filling, chopped and sauteéd with olive oil and garlic, as it adds moisture to the tuna and breadcrumb mixture. We normally add Parmigiano Reggiano, but feel free to use any sharp cheese you have on hand. As for the pecorino Toscano, which will melt in the filling, you can substitute it with Emmental, scamorza, or provolone, or simply omit it.
- 4 fresh round zucchini
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/3 cup diced fresh pecorino Toscano
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 (5-ounce) can good quality tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), well-drained and flaked with a fork
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved, or 2 peeled tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups hot vegetable stock, or hot water
Wash the zucchini and remove the tops with a sharp knife. Use a spoon to scrape out the pulp into a bowl.
Finely chop half of the zucchini pulp. (For this recipe, we are going to use only half; the rest of the pulp can be added to a pasta sauce or a vegetable soup, along with the zucchini tops.) Add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a whole clove of garlic, the chopped pulp, and a pinch of salt to a pan over medium-low heat. Sauté for about 10 minutes. At first the zucchini will release some water, then it will cook down into a soft and tasty mush.
Transfer the cooked pulp to a bowl and mix it with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, diced fresh pecorino, beaten egg, tuna, and breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly with a fork until homogeneous. Season with salt, if needed.
Stuff the zucchini with the tuna filling, pressing it in with a spoon but taking care not to break the zucchini.
Pour four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a thick-bottomed pan and add the zucchini. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced onion.
Cook the zucchini over medium heat for about 5 minutes. When they start to sizzle, pour in the white wine and reduce until almost all the wine has been absorbed, for about 5 more minutes.
Pour in the vegetable stock or water, cover with a lid, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 35 minutes, until the zucchini are soft. Check the zucchini often, spooning some of the cooking liquid from the pan over the stuffing.
Serve the stuffed zucchini immediately, while hot. They’re also good the next day, reheated for a few minutes.