I’m always searching for quick and easy recipes that I can put together after a long day at the office. After a 9 hour day, it can be hard to find the energy to cook a hot meal (and a lot easier to order a burrito off of UberEats).
While I do love the simplicity of takeout, it’s important for me to take time to create a dinner – it tastes better and saves money, especially when I can eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Plus, home cooked meals just make you feel good. You know what’s going into the dish and you can tweak it just how you like (an extra pinch of salt please!) One of my go-to dinners to create are zucchini boats with meat sauce, topped with cheese.
A note on meat sauce: this is literally one of the most versatile things, in my humble opinion. For millennials busy balancing work, exercise, a social life AND eating somewhat healthy (aka not ordering takeout more than a couple times a week), meat sauce is a godsend. I love creating a batch of meat sauce and incorporating it into easy meals such as pasta, spaghetti squash, and of course, zucchini boats!
Creating a meat sauce is simple: all you need is your favorite jar of red sauce (I like to mix it up or see whatever is on sale at the store!) plus about a pound (or a little more) of lean ground beef or turkey. Grab a non-stick pan, add some olive oil, and begin browning the meat. I’ll season my ground beef/turkey with fresh garlic, salt and pepper.
Once the ground meat is mostly cooked, drain it and retire it. In another pan, warm up the sauce, adding chopped onion and incorporate some extra seasoning – I like to add a little salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, basil, and any other Italian seasonings I have on hand. I like to check what vegetables I have in my fridge – in this recipe, I added a few handfuls of spinach! Add the ground beef or turkey to the sauce and boom – you have meat sauce.
With that prepped and ready – I’ll move onto the zucchinis! To create the boats, simply take a knife and cut a rectangular shape on the top of the zucchini to create your outline for the inside of the boat. Once you have the outline set, use a spoon to pull out the pulp of the zucchini, saving it on the side. Be sure not to scoop too deep, or else you’ll break the boat. Chop up the zucchini pulp and add this to your meat sauce.
Line up your boats in a oven-safe baking dish. Take a ladle and fill your boats up with that yummy veggie meat sauce! Once those are all filled, sprinkle on the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. I tend to go a little cheese heavy – if you’re looking to make this healthy recipe even heavier, you can use low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese!
Bake the dish at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 – 30 minutes (until the zucchini is tender) and voila!
To make this quick recipe even easier, make yourself a big batch of meat sauce on Sunday, then freeze it for specific meals or use it throughout the week!