These easy Bolognese Stuffed Zucchini Boats are a perfect lower-carb family dinner. Zucchini are halved, stuffed with tasty beef and lentil ragu then topped with cheese and baked for a deliciously molten finish.
If you're trying to eat more vegetables rather than another big old plate of carbs, Bolognese Stuffed Zucchini Boats is the recipe for you.
I don't suggestg this is an authentic bolognese sauce - but it is a tasty, quick and easy, pared-back version which is great for weeknights. And it works a treat in my easy stuffed zucchini boats.
The addition of lentils into this beef ragu also means you're eating less meat and it ups the fiber content of this dish. Serving the bolognese in an oversized zucchini or small marrow means the kids don't tend to notice that they are eating extra veggies.
This classic stuffed zucchini boat recipe is also ideal for anyone who grows their own veg and has a glut of zucchini to use up during the summer.
If you like cooking with Zucchini be sure to try my easy Roasted Summer Squash and Zucchini with Goat Cheese too.
What are Zucchini Boats?
Zucchini boats may sound complicated, but they are simply stuffed zucchini (or stuffed courgettes if you are in the UK), that have been cut in half lengthways, with the flesh scooped out.
They are then filled, in this case with bolognese, topped with cheese and baked to perfection in the oven.
Why You Should Make This Bolognese Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Once the bolognese has been cooked, these easy stuffed zucchini boats are simple to prepare.
- This is a great fun way to get your kids eating more healthy veggies and adding to their 5-a-day.
- Zucchini boats not only taste great but are both low carb and gluten free.
- For other great tasting low carb dinners try my Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles, my Chicken with Creamy Garlic Chicken Thighs with Kale or my Spicy Chickpea Buddha Bowl.
Easy Stuffed Zucchini Boats Ingredients
Find the full list and quantities in the recipe below.
Ground Beef - I like to use a lean ground beef in this dish, but you can use any variety of ground meat: pork; lamb; veal or turkey would all work in this dish.
Lentils - green or puy lentils both have a great texture for bolognese. It's fine to use canned or packaged pre-cooked lentils here for convenience.
Canned Tomatoes - I use canned diced tomatoes, but you can also use canned plum tomatoes. Break them up in the pan or use a similar quantity of fresh plum tomatoes if you prefer.
Zucchinis- medium/large sized zucchini (courgettes if you are in the UK) work best in this dish, to allow you space to fill. You can also use any other type of summer squash (or marrow in the UK), just don't go too large or they tend to have less flavor.
Cheese - I topped the ragu sauce with grated cheddar cheese. You could substitute with grated mozzarella, Parmesan, fontina, provolone or even some Gruyere if you prefer.
How to Make Bolognese Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Find the full printable recipe below.
Start by making the bolognese stuffing.
Gently fry onions until softened, add minced garlic and then brown ground beef in the same pan.
Add and reduce red wine then stir in tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, dried oregano and lentils.
Simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes before stirring, checking the seasoning and leaving to simmer for a further 20 minutes.
While the sauce finishes cooking, prepare the zucchini boats.
Cut large zucchinis in half lengthways and scoop out the middles.
Season then bake for 15 minutes before filling with the cooked sauce.
Top with shredded cheese and bake for another 10 minutes before serving.
Do you eat the skin on zucchini boats?
The skin of a zucchini is perfectly edible, I rarely ever remove the skin. You may notice that the skin on larger zucchini is a little tougher, but once roasted I never notice.
How much of the zucchini middle should be scooped out?
Scoop out the center core of the zucchini as it is soft and watery.
Also take a little extra flesh, enough so that you can stuff it with the bolognese sauce. However, don't go too near to the sides otherwise you risk the zucchini boat collapsing.
Leave at least ¼-inch all the way around.
Variations of Bolognese Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- I have used a combination of ground beef and lentils, however you could use any variety of ground meat in the ragu sauce. For example try pork; lamb; veal or turkey. Or how about a combination of ground beef and pork?
- If you don't like lentils, it's fine to leave them out.
- Replace the ground meat and lentils with some Italian sausage, just remove the skins, break into small pieces and fry off with the onions before adding the rest of the sauce ingredients.
How to make Bolognese stuffed Zucchini Boats meat free
For an entirely meat-free version of these stuffed zucchini boats, replace the ground beef in the bolognese stuffing recipe with extra lentils.
Alternatively, replace the ground meat with extra veggies like bell peppers; carrots and eggplant. Also grate over some vegetarian or vegan cheese.
Tips For Making Bolognese Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Choose medium/large sized zucchini, just large enough to stuff. If they are too large they tend to loose some of their flavor.
- A great make ahead dish, prepare earlier in the day or the day before, and finish baking in the oven just before serving.
- This bolognese freezes perfectly - so make a big batch and you'll have easy dinners all month long.
How To Serve Easy Stuffed Zucchini Boats
This is a great meal in one, so I would keep any side dishes simple. A green salad or steamed green veggies like green beans, broccoli, spinach or kale would be ideal.
How To Reheat Bolognese Stuffed Zucchini Boats?
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days and then reheated in a warm oven to piping hot.
You may wish to add some extra freshly grated cheese just before placing them into the oven.
How to Freeze Stuffed Zucchini Boats?
Stuffed zucchini boats can be frozen. Once you have them assembled, and before you bake in the oven, place them into an airtight container and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When you are ready to enjoy remove from the freezer and defrost before placing in the oven to bake.
However, it is worth noting that the zucchini will become a little mushy once thawed so what I prefer to do is freeze the bolognese sauce and when ready to enjoy I cut fresh zucchini and finish the recipe.
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More Easy Dinner Recipe Ideas
Easy Bolognese Stuffed Zucchini Boats
For The Easy Bolognese
- 1 Onion - finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 cloves Garlic - minced
- 1 lb Ground Beef
- ½ cup Red Wine - optional - if you have some open 😉
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 14 oz Canned Diced Tomatoes
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 cup Puy or Green Lentils - cooked - canned is fine
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
For The Zucchini Boats
- 2 large Zucchini
- 1 cup Cheddar Cheese - shredded/grated - or another favourite cheese
Easy Bolognese Instructions
- 1 Onion | 1 tbsp Olive OilGently fry the chopped onions in olive oil in a large pan. Cook over a medium low heat until soft - around 10 minutes.
- 2 cloves GarlicAdd the minced garlic and fry for one more minute.
- 1 lb Ground Beef | Sea Salt and Black PepperAdd the ground beef, season well and break it up by stirring. It is better to brown the beef separately if you have time - but as long as you break it up in the pan it will still taste great.
- ½ cup Red WineAdd the wine and cook until it reduces by half.
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste | 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar | 14 oz Canned Diced Tomatoes | 1 tsp Dried Oregano | 1 cup Puy or Green LentilsAdd the tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, oregano and lentils.
- Adjust the heat so the sauce is just simmering and cook with the lid on for 20 minutes.
- Sea Salt and Black PepperTake the lid off, stir, taste and season again then cook for a further 20 minutes until the sauce is starting to look thick and rich.
To make the zucchini boats
- Pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°c
- 2 large ZucchiniCut the zucchinis in half lengthways
- Scoop out the middle part which can make them soggy.
- Sea Salt and Black PepperSeason them well.
- Place the zucchini on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.
- Fill the boats with the now cooked bolognese sauce. Bake for 10 minutes.
- 1 cup Cheddar CheeseTop with grated cheese and bake for a further 10 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbly.