Stuffed Zucchini Recipe (Uruguayan Zapallitos Rellenos)

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A sumptuous taste of Uruguayan cuisine, zapallitos rellenos or stuffed zucchini is a classic example of how great food doesn’t need to be complicated, and even a handful of simple ingredients can be used to make wholesome dishes with so much flavor.

About Zapallitos Rellenos (Stuffed Zucchini)

In a similar vein to squash or eggplant, the size and soft insides of zucchini make it an ideal vegetable to stuff with many different ingredients.

Uruguay’s geography gives it direct access to some of the world’s most flavorful, tender beef. Couple that with South Americans’ love of Asado (BBQing/grilling), and it is no surprise that beef-stuffed zucchini became a beloved dish across the country.

In our recipe, we are going to bake the stuffed zucchini. But it is common in South America to grill the stuffed vegetable over an open fire, asado-style.

Zapallitos rellenos is also a very diverse dish. You can stuff it with a wide range of different fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and other meats, if you want to branch out from the traditional recipe and get a little more creative.

Zapallitos Rellenos (Stuffed Zucchini) Ingredients

We’ll start what our list of ingredients, as follows:

  • 2 zucchini (courgettes) 
  • 250g (about ½ pound) of minced beef  
  • 1 small onion
  • ½ bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¾ cup of breadcrumbs 
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • olive oil for cooking

Topping:

  • 50g (about 1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese 
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • sour cream or plain yougurt for serving, optional

Zapallitos Rellenos (Stuffed Zucchini) Step-By-Step Instructions

First, boil the zucchini in salted water for 8-10 minutes until soft. Remove them and wait until they’re cool to the touch and cut them in half lengthwise.

With a spoon, scoop up the inside of the zucchini and set the scooped up flesh aside to use it in the filling later on. Place the hollowed zucchini in a baking dish that’s been greased with olive oil.

Finely chop the garlic clove, onion, and bell pepper.

In a pan, over the medium heat, add a bit of olive oil. Sauté the garlic and the onion until golden. Add the bell pepper to the garlic and onion, cook until tender.

Add the minced meat, salt, and pepper, and cook the mixture until the meat is fully cooked. I used about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Cut up the pulp of the zucchini and add the pulp and the breadcrumbs, mixing everything well.

After mixing well, taste the filling and season with salt and pepper, to your liking, if needed. Now, fill each zucchini shell with the mixture.

On top, add breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a preheated 360°F (180°C) oven until it is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serve them hot on a plate, optionally with some fresh herbs and sour cream.

The golden crispy breadcrumbs coating the delicious browned meat and the charred skin of the zucchini make for a truly beautiful dish, offering so many textures in every bite.

Zapallitos rellenos has a deep, layered flavor. The crisp skin and soft earthiness of the zucchini provide the perfect savory base on which to unleash the spices and juices of the minced meat, crunch of breadcrumbs, and cheese.

You can instantly see why Uruguayans love zapallitos rellenos when it comes to asado. Paired with a crisp, cold beer, this dish would go down a treat on a warm summer’s evening after work with friends.

Zapallitos Rellenos (Stuffed Zucchini) Recipe

Stuffed Zucchini Recipe (Uruguayan Zapallitos Rellenos)

Stuffed Zucchini Recipe (Uruguayan Zapallitos Rellenos)

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchini (courgettes)
  • 250g (about ½ pound) of minced beef
  • 1 small onion
  • ½ bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¾ cup of breadcrumbs
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 50g (about 1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • sour cream or plain yougurt for serving, optional

Instructions

  1. Boil the zucchini in salted water for 8-10 minutes until soft. Remove them and wait until they’re cool to the touch and cut them in half lengthwise.
  2. With a spoon, scoop up the inside of the zucchini and set the scooped up flesh aside to use it in the filling later on.
  3. Place the hollowed zucchini in a baking dish that’s been greased with olive oil.
  4. In a pan, over medium heat, add a bit of olive oil. Sauté the garlic and the onion until softened. Add the bell pepper to the garlic and onion and cook until tender.
  5. Add the minced meat, salt, and pepper, and cook until the meat is cooked.
  6. Cut up the pulp of the zucchini and add the pulp and the breadcrumbs, mixing everything well.
  7. After mixing well, taste the filling and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste, if needed.
  8. Now, fill each zucchini shell with the mixture.
  9. On top, add breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
  10. Bake in a preheated at 360°F (180°C) oven until it is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

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Author: Doina Johnson is a content writer and strategist who loves to discover new and exciting foods and recipes while traveling. She replicates some of her favorite dishes in her home kitchen and is eager to explore native cuisine wherever she travels to.

Contributor: Cecilia Demartini is a creative writer from Maldonado, Uruguay. She is deeply passionate about Uruguayan culture, and writes regularly on native foods, cuisine, and travel.

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