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Hungry Girl: Try My Lightened-Up Version of Stuffed Zucchini

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Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of eleven books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.

Stuffed zucchini has been around for ages. But old school recipes call for fatty ingredients like butter, cheese, and sausage. I don’t care how healthy a veggie is — load it up with heavy ingredients, and it becomes a high calorie mess. What to do?

Make this lightened-up recipe! By using part-skim mozzarella and light ricotta, you get plenty of decadence without all the calories.

Italian-Style Stuffed Zucchini
Serves 4

4 medium-large zucchini (about 9 oz. each)
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
1¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
1¼ cup light/low-fat ricotta cheese
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. chopped garlic
¼ tsp. each salt and black pepper
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Optional topping: additional chopped fresh basil

RELATED: Hungry Girl: Spring Clean Your Diet with These Healthy Food Swaps

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9” x 13” baking pan with nonstick spray.

2. Slice off and discard stem ends of zucchini. Pierce zucchini several times with a fork. On a microwave-safe plate, microwave for 2 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine canned crushed tomatoes with garlic powder, onion powder, and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Mix well.

4. In a second medium bowl, combine ricotta, Parm, basil, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and remaining ¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning. Mix until uniform.

5. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Gently scoop out and discard the inside flesh (or save for another time), leaving about ¼ inch inside each half. Thoroughly pat dry. Place hollow halves in the baking pan. (They will fit tightly.)

6. Evenly distribute ricotta mixture among the zucchini halves, about 3 tablespoon each.

7. Gently spread seasoned tomatoes over stuffed zucchini. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

8. Remove pan from oven, and increase temperature to 400 degrees.

9. Top zucchini with mozzarella. Bake until melted, about 5 minutes.

Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Nutritional Information: 2 stuffed zucchini halves: 202 calories, 8.5g total fat (5g sat fat), 594mg sodium, 16g carbs, 4g fiber, 11.5g sugars, 17.5g protein

‘Til next time… Chew the right thing!