Zucchini Boats loaded with lentils and sautéed baby spinach in a lightly spicy tomato sauce and covered with shredded mozzarella cheese. A meal that’s completely vegetarian friendly and you’re not even going to miss the meat!
Summer is all about those zukes. And they are everywhere you look. Every summer, I take full advantage of these lovely little squashes. I mean, this, this, and this are just some of my favorite zucchini loaded treats.
Zoodles. Zucchini boats. Zucchini pancakes. Zucchinis have been on my mind so much that the other night I had a dream, a giant zucchini squash was chasing me around town and I was trying to get away. Though in reality, it’s really quite the other way around, isn’t it?
I love the idea of using the zucchini as a vehicle for all of our face stuffing needs. Zoodles were a gluten-free, carb-free gift to mankind. And just when you thought zucchinis couldn’t get any cooler, we’ve hollowed out a zucchini squash and stuffed it full of goodness, topped it with – yes, you guessed it – CHEESE!
I love that you save on the carbs when you use zucchini instead of calorie rich pasta AND you don’t end up sacrificing any of the flavor. It’s a simple swap that makes an otherwise calorie rich meal, perfect for light week night dinners and filling lunches.
Today’s recipe is Italian flavored lentils with sautéed baby spinach flavored with onions and garlic then loaded inside these zucchini squashes. These really just taste like a lasagna, minus the pasta and the meat sauce.
The key to making stuffed zucchini boats is finding the best wide bottom zucchini. I’m sure I looked a little crazy when I was digging through pounds and pounds of zucchini at the store to find the best plump ones that I could stuff full of these flavorful lentils.
To hollow out the zucchini, I used a 1 teaspoon sized measuring spoon to dig out the seeds and the softer centers. Make sure you leave a 1/4 inch wall so that all that lentil stuffing stays inside.
But finding the perfect zucchini is probably the hardest part about making these zucchini boats. They are simple to pull together and most of the ingredients are pantry staples. It’s a meal that’s ready in a flash, tastes good, and is healthy. Don’t you love when that works out so well?
zucchinis, cut lengthwise
brown or green lentils
red pepper flakes
Talk about a nicely balanced meal!
- 1/2 cup dry brown or green lentils
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup red onions, diced
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup pasta sauce (homemade or store-bought)
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 4 zucchini squashes, cut lengthwise
- Rinse the lentils under running water for 1 minute thoroughly and allow them to soak in a small bowl for 10 minutes.
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the lentils and allow them to cook for 10-15 minutes or until al-dente. Keep in mind, if your lentils are older, they may require several additional minutes. Drain the lentils in a strainer and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking further.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400ºF. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Using a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon, scoop out the center of the zucchini leaving a 1/4 inch border on all sides. Line the zucchini in the prepared baking dish, skin side down, set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes or until they start to brown, add the garlic and let cook for 30 seconds. Add in the baby spinach and the lentils and let the spinach just begin to wilt. Stir in the pasta sauce and let it heat all the way through, about 1-2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, check for seasonings, season to taste.
- Divide the lentil mixture into the prepared zucchini. Top with mozzarella cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes. You can remove the foil during the last 2 minutes of baking and turn on the broiler if you want the cheese to be bubbly.