Is there such a thing as easy, healthy, tasty pizza? Yes, there is! This recipe lets you satisfy your pizza cravings—and your family’s—in the simplest, healthiest imaginable way.
It’s perfect for anyone following a gluten-free diet, since there’s no wheat-filled crust. And it’s also ideal for low-carbers with nut allergies, since it doesn’t contain any nut- or almond-based crust: succulent, super-healthy zucchini does the job instead.
Last but not least, you can think of this as the healthiest-even deep-dish pizza (!), since you can add a really thick layer of toppings to the low-carb veggie crust.
Hint: You’ll find the video for the recipe under the recipe box.
Tips for preparing the Pizza Stuffed Zucchini
This recipe is very straightforward, but you can make the most out of it by remembering a couple of things.
First, you don’t want to bake your zucchini for so long so that it becomes unpalatably mushy. Leaving it a bit crispy so that it keeps its structure is the best — and that way the fillings don’t slip out, but stay inside the zucchini “boat.”
Second, you don’t want to fill the zucchini halves completely with the marinara sauce. Just fill them 3/4 full. Otherwise the filling will ooze out during baking, and the pepperoni slices will slip to the bottom of the baking dish. This you definitely don’t want!
And to make this recipe as healthy as possible, use only clean ingredients (meaning ingredients that contain neither food additives nor added sugar or starch). So the marinara or pizza sauce you use shouldn’t contain any added sugar—and definitely no HFCS either! Remember that healthy doesn’t mean low-fat. There is nothing wrong with saturated fat (don’t tell me that you still believe this thoroughly-debunked myth!), so go ahead and use real full-fat cheese without starch or colorings. No cheese food or other weird, unnatural stuff, please! (If you’re still in doubt, read more here.) Also, if you can find pepperoni without food additives, go for it.
Fresh oregano is a must: use dried oregano only in emergencies!
This recipe makes 4 servings. For more people (or if you and your gang are just hungrier), it’s easy to double the recipe, or even multiply it.
Let’s take a look at how to make this simple, super-satisfying dish:
First, take two zucchinis of the same size. (It’s pure coincidence that these two zucchinis are of exactly same weight!)
Wash the zucchinis and pat dry.
Halve the zucchinis lengthwise.
Scoop out the insides of the zucchini and reserve them for later use. (I like to simply fry them in an ample amount of butter and serve them as a side.) Leave a thin layer of zucchini on the zucchini skin: You don’t want to make any holes in the skin, because otherwise the stuffing will leak out.
Fill the zucchini halves 3/4 full with marinara sauce.
Sprinkle mozzarella cheese evenly on top.
Top with pepperoni slices, using 4 slices per zucchini half (or more if you want!).
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the zucchini is crisp-tender and the cheese is golden and bubbly.
Remove from the oven.
Sprinkle chopped fresh oregano on top of the stuffed zucchini before serving.
My Pizza Stuffed Zucchini experiments
I’ve been in a very zucchini mood lately—even though there isn’t a single zucchini growing in my garden. (You might notice this from my last blog post my last blog post as well.) But that’s not for lack of trying. I planted some zucchini in my garden, and even though the plants are flowering, they’re not producing any zucchinis! I wonder if it’s because they’re lacking pollinators or if it’s just because of my non-existent gardening skills. (I usually manage to kill all the plants in my garden—unless I neglect them, in which case, they thrive.)
Anyway, since I didn’t have any homegrown zucchini, I had to rely on the selection in the nearest grocery store. Luckily they had cheap zucchini, since it’s in season now.
So I bought some, and was wondering what to do with them. Somehow I was thinking of pizza. But how to create pizza from zucchini? Maybe I could use zucchini slices as pizza crust. Would that work?
Then I came up with a better idea: Why not fill the zucchinis with an ample amount of marinara sauce and top them with a thick layer of mozzarella and some pepperoni? If I halve the zucchinis and scoop out the insides, I said to myself, lots of delicious filling could fit inside! It’d be just like a healthy deep-dish pizza, but you wouldn’t feel as stuffed afterwards. (Plus, my version would be even better: I never liked that tasteless crust anyway!).
I was in our summer cottage again, so finding a baking dish of the right size wasn’t easy. At home, I have a good selection of differently-sized baking dishes, but here in the summer cottage, everything was either too small or too big. (By the way, the video for this recipe is taken in the summer cottage, so you’ll be able to see what kind of dish I used in the end.)
Then I just started experimenting. I took two medium-sized zucchinis and halved them lengthwise. I was wondering which tool would be best for scooping out the insides. A melon baller would be a good option, but there was no such thing in the summer cottage. I decided to try my luck with a regular spoon.
That worked surprisingly well! In the video you will see the technique I used. Later, at home, I used a melon baller and it also worked well. I think a melon baller is especially great for smaller zucchinis.
I filled the zucchini halves almost full with organic marinara sauce I had bought from the store. It didn’t have any added sugar, and it had extra virgin olive oil instead of processed vegetable seed oils. Avoid vegetable seed oils: they are so unhealthy and cause inflammation! That means no canola, rapeseed, soybean, safflower and definitely no sunflower oil, which has the highest omega-6 content (meaning that it’ll definitely cause inflammation).
Lecture over! Let’s get back to developing the recipe. After I had filled the zucchini halves approximately 3/4 full with the marinara sauce, I took shredded mozzarella cheese and sprinkled an ample amount on top of each zucchini half. Luckily, I had some pepperoni, too, so I placed slices of pepperoni on top of the cheese. Four pepperoni slices per zucchini half looked just perfect.
I placed the stuffed zucchinis in the oven. How long should I bake them? –I wondered. Will the zucchini turn out too mushy? Or will it stay too crispy and hard while the cheese on top is burning? Raw zucchini in a pizza sounds pretty disgusting. Should I have precooked them first?
Ultimately, I decided to wait and see what the result was, then act accordingly. After half an hour the cheese was quite melted, but wasn’t turning golden yet. So I decided to bake them for 10 minutes more. When I removed them from the oven they looked perfect: The color of the cheese was golden — but not too brown — and it was nicely oozy and bubbly.
But how about the zucchini, then? It didn’t look too mushy—so was it too raw? Nope: It turned out to be just perfect! It was crispy yet tender, offering nice resistance to your teeth when you bite into it. Precooking definitely wasn’t needed: that would have made them too mushy.
I sprinkled some chopped fresh oregano on top of each stuffed zucchini while they were hot. In my opinion, pizza isn’t pizza without oregano! Usually I use dried oregano, but this time I wanted to use fresh oregano. It has a wonderfully strong, distinct flavor that makes your mouth water.
|Per serving if 4 servings in total:
Tips for variation
Would you like to make heartier Pizza Stuffed Zucchini? Try using Bolognese sauce instead of marinara sauce!
Wait, what if you don’t eat red meat? No problem: Add cubed, cooked chicken to the marinara sauce and fill the zucchinis with that. You can also replace the pepperoni with fried, crumbled turkey bacon.
For variation, you can also experiment with different sauces. Add some cooked, chopped veggies to the sauce to healthify it even further — and to get your kiddos to eat more veggies! It’s easy to hide carrots, celery, bell peppers, and even broccoli in the sauce.
For great appetizers or snacks, try making bite-sized Pizza Stuffed Zucchini Bites. Slice the zucchinis crosswise into 1 1/2-inch (approx. 4cm) pieces. Scoop out the inside so that you leave a half-inch (a bit over 1 cm) layer of zucchini flesh in the bottom. Fill 3/4 full with marinara sauce, then top with shredded mozzarella and 1 slice of pepperoni per zucchini bite. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly (they don’t need to be baked for as long as the zucchini halves). Oh yes, and don’t forget to sprinkle some chopped fresh oregano on top of the zucchini bites before serving. (By the way, these bites seemed to be particularly man-friendly: my hubby really loved them!)
If you give this Pizza Stuffed Zucchini dish a try, let me know: I’d love to know how you liked it!