Grandma uses a deep pot, always the same. I have a memory of that pot since the first time I tasted her stuffed round zucchini. Over the years it has lost a handle, but it remains, in her opinion, the perfect pot to use if you want to cook her tuna-stuffed round zucchini. It has a thick bottom and you can easily fit in two zucchini per person, plus one which has to be left aside for when my dad comes back home from work in the evening. Because grandma knows what he likes, and he has a soft spot for stuffed vegetables.
Even though she tries to hide the pot, hoping to make it go unnoticed behind other pots on the stove, I am always able to find it and guess what she has cooked from the celestial smell. As soon as the zucchini are ready, I stealthy approach to the stove with a fork in my hand and I try to steal little morsels of stuffing from the top of each zucchini, how can she notice it? Then I drizzle some sauce over each courgette, trying to hide the theft.
When Grandma brings the zucchini to the table she always looks at me with complicity. I am sure that our secret is in good hands.
Tuna-stuffed round Zucchini
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 is instead 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 sautéd with olive oil and garlic, as it adds moisture to the tuna and breadcrumb mixture. We normally use 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, or you can substitute it with Emmental, scamorza, or provolone, or simply omit it.
Tuna-stuffed round zucchini
- 4 fresh round zucchini, medium sized
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 egg, beaten
- 40 g (1/2 cup) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 40 g (1/3 cup) diced fresh pecorino toscano
- 120 g (5 oz) good quality tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), well drained and flaked with a fork
- 80 g (3/4 cup) breadcrumbs
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 500 ml (2 cups) hot vegetable stock, or hot water
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved, or 2 peeled tomatoes, cut into wedges
- ½ white onion, thinly sliced
- Wash the zucchini and remove the top with a sharp knife. Use a spoon to scrape out the pulp into a bowl. For this recipe, we are going to use only half of the zucchini pulp. The rest can be added to a pasta sauce or a vegetable soup, along with the zucchini tops.
- Finely chop half of the zucchini pulp. 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 into 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 with a spoon, taking care not to break them.
- Pour four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan and add the zucchini. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and the 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.
More recipes with zucchini
- Zucchini with fresh garlic and oregano. How can I still remember the excitement of this dish after so many years? My first fresh garlic, a bunch of aromatic herbs, a side dish just for me.
- A Tuscan sweet zucchini cake. This zucchini cake is not too sweet, has an unusual green taste for a cake and keeps its moisture thanks to the thinly sliced zucchini that enrich a simple batter made of flour, milk, egg, sugar and olive oil. Do not forget a few leaves of fresh basil to make this cake even more aromatic.