Healthy Choices,  Main Course

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini {Lightened Up}

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Easy week night meals that are packed with fresh flavorful ingredients.

That was my mission.  Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini boats not only made a great dinner, but they reheated beautifully for lunch the next day. 

I recognize that most of us have made zucchini boats before.  In fact I’ve never met a zucchini boat I didn’t love.  However as I do often, I’m sharing this recipe as a way to document a great dish, while at the same time offer some healthier ingredient swaps.

I’d like to introduce you to two of the star ingredients in this recipe.  First up Jennie-O Hot Italian Turkey Sausages, which pack all of the authentic Italian sausage flavor with about half of the fat and calories.  If you’re not already a Jennie-O fan I highly recommend several of their products.  We love their lean ground turkey for Turkey Burgers, Turkey Meatballs and Meatloaf.  Jennie-O All Natural Turkey Tenderloins are fantastic for stuffing, as we did in this Moroccan Stuffed Turkey Tenderloin recipe.

The next ingredient that I’m currently obsessed with is from RoyalSelect.  These are the folks that make some really nice coucous, rice, pasta and grain blends.  My personal favorite is the Royal Blend, with Light Brown Rice, Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous, Brown Flaxseed and Black Lentils.  The flavor and texture of this blend is amazing (almost nutty but also creamy) and it’s as easy to prepare as regular rice.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Collage

In addition to those two flavorful ingredients, I added diced tomatoes, sautéed onion, fresh spinach & parsley to our stuffing.  While preparing the rice and stuffing, I got the zucchini off to a head start.  About 15 minutes in the oven before stuffing will help insure they are tender when ready to serve.  Once the prebaked boats are filled to the brim, top them with freshly grated cheddar cheese and return them to the oven for 30 minutes.

Recipe Note:  Yes, you can substitute low fat or even fat free cheese and further reduce the fat and calories in this dish.  We don’t keep those on hand, so instead I opted for a reasonable portion of the full fat variety.

I shared these Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini boats with my lunch buddy today.   Healthy Choices span far beyond a boring salad at lunch every day.  So to that boring salad we’re adding a home cooked element to our midday meal.  #leftoversrule #healthychoices (I’m new to Twitter @lemonythyme not even sure if you can hash tag on a website, but I did).  Down 7.5 pounds between us after week one.  #winning

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini {Lightened Up}

Libby with Lemony Thyme
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8


  • 1 pkg. Jennie-O Hot Italian Turkey Sausage
  • 4 medium zucchini 8-10 inches long
  • 1 Tbl. olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 14.5- ounce can diced tomato
  • 1 cup dry RiceSelect Royal Blend prepared according to package instructions
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 Tbl. fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese shredded (reduced fat or regular)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare rice blend according to package instructions.
  • Slice zucchini in half lengthwise. Use spoon to scoop out seeds and make boats. Place zucchini halves cut side up on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, remove sausage from casing and sauté in olive oil in large skillet until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Add onion to pan and sauté until tender. Add in diced tomatoes, cooked sausage, cooked rice, spinach, herbs & seasonings; stir until well combined.
  • Fill each zucchini half with a generous portion of sausage rice mixture. Use hands to press into place. Top each stuffed zucchini with shredded cheese.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.


1 cup of dry Royal Blend will yield about 3 cups cooked rice. I used two cups cooked in this recipe and reserved 1 cup for another dish.

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