Stuffed Zucchini or Kunguj te Mbushur is a favorite spring/summer dish in Albania. We love stuffed vegetables like most other Mediterranean countries. Stuffed Zucchini recipes like Stuffed Peppers usually contain minced or ground beef, tomatoes, rice, parsley or other cooking greens, spices etc. I decided to alternate zucchini & yellow squash and make this a Stuffed Zucchini Squash recipe.
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Stuffed Vegetables in Mediterranean Culture
By now, you have realized that Albanian food as well as Mediterranean cuisine is composed in part of a lot of stuffed dishes: stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini, stuffed eggplants, stuffed grape leaves, stuffed cabbage etc. We even stuff tomatoes.
Vegetables are a staple of Mediterranean food. We don’t eliminate other food groups, but rely heavily on vegetables for our meals. To make them more filling, we do add protein, rice etc but the base is the vegetable. It is typical to make a lot of casseroles with seasonal vegetables.
Preparing Zucchini & Yellow Squash
There are 2 tips that my mom has taught me about this dish.
- Cut zucchini & squash in half. Keep the bottom half for the casserole but store the top part for another dish (zucchini tots, chips etc). The top part of zucchini and squash tends to be quite thin so it’s difficult to carve out and stuff.
- When carving both the zucchini and squash halves out, use a knife and remove the middle part in a conic shape as demonstrated in the picture below.
Stuffed Zucchini Squash Recipe
Even as I was writing this recipe out, my friends asked me for a vegetarian stuffed zucchini recipe. So I promise to come up with one in a few weeks. However, if you like this stuffed zucchini squash casserole but you would like to make it vegetarian, try by not including the meat and adding a little more fresh chopped tomatoes, parsley, rice and an extra spoon of olive oil.
- This recipe is made with ground beef. You can use minced beef instead.
- My recipe has 5 zucchini and 5 squash but remember that I don’t use all of it, I leave the upper half for other recipes. So take notes to adjust accordingly if you use ingredient list to calculate calories. I use the upper half of the zucchinis for this chilled zucchini soup
- I prefer using fresh tomatoes on the stuffing for this casserole. However, that is not always feasible as tomatoes can get expensive. So if you can get them for cheap, I would use about 2-3 medium size soft tomatoes to add to stuffing. If not, a can of about 14 ozs of tomato sauce would work.
- This is a perfect casserole for meal planning. You can use the upper halves of zuchini and squash for other recipes. Then this casserole itself gives about 2 dinners for my family of 4 (I have 2 young children so their portion sizes are smaller).
How to Serve Baked Stuffed Zuchinis?
Back in Albania, we served stuffed zucchinis with a salad (usually sallate fshati) and some fresh, warm bread.
Baked Stuffed Zucchini Squash
- 5 zucchini
- 5 yellow squash
- 2 beefsteak tomatoes
- 1 big white onion
- 1.25 lbs ground beef
- 4 garlic cloves (medium size)
- 1 bunch parsley
- 2-3 soft tomatoes or 1 can tomato sauce 14 oz
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 1.5 tsp salt adjust to taste
- 0.5 tsp black pepper
- 0.5 cups rice
- 0.5 tsp paprika
- Saute chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil until onion becomes translucent.
- Add ground beef, stir occasionally until beef is browned.
- As you brown the beef (keep heat medium), set up an area right next to the stove so you can continue mixing occasionally. Start carving out the zucchinis and squash to empty them in the middle. Do the same to beef steak tomatoes.
- Chop the internal part of the carved beefsteak tomatoes, zucchinis and squash and add them to the ground beef mix.
- Blend the rest of tomatoes in a small food processor. Add tomatoes to mix, cook for few minutes. If you don't have fresh, soft tomatoes for this step add 14 ozs of tomato sauce to stuffing (usually 1 can).
- Add parsley to the mix, stir well. Add also salt and pepper at this point.
- Add half cup rice to the stuffing. Mix well and cook for about 10 minutes in low heat. Then turn off and let cool for a little bit.
- Up to this point it took me about 35-40 minutes.
- Once stuffing is cooled enough, then start stuffing zucchinis, squash and beefsteak tomatoes with it. Pour leftover stuffing around the spaces between vegetables.
- Add a cup of hot water on the stuffing pot, swirl it around to grab all the bits and pieces, then pour that in the casserole tray. Bake at 350 for about 1 hour.
- If you are new to this way of cooking, I would suggest to carve the zucchinis, squash and tomatoes before you start preparing the stuffing so you can fully focus on that step. If you’re an experienced cook, you can save some time by carving the vegetables as you prepare the stuffing – multitasking:).
- Calories are estimated but they can vary on the vegetables sizes.
If you like to save this recipe for later, please pin the below image to Pinterest. I would love to hear from you if you cooked this dish or if you have any questions:). Thank you!!
Other Mediterranean Casseroles:
Check out more baked Mediterranean dishes from my blog: