Warm and soul-satisfying, these cheeseburger stuffed eight ball zucchini are the perfect all-in-one meal. They have everything you love about cheeseburgers- melty cheddar, hearty ground beef, and tangy dill pickles- baked to perfection inside adorably delicious zucchini containers. They’re easy to customize -“make it your way”- and a great way to eat more veggies!
Savoring The Changing Of Seasons
It’s been a while, my friends!
This time of year has so many gifts to offer. It’s a beautiful mash up of sunshine, green grass and turning leaves. Of sandals (or better yet, bare feet!) paired with hoodies or light sweaters. Of colorful, fresh-from-the-garden produce and warm things that bubble and simmer on the stove top.
“The transition between summer and fall is my favorite time of year. Summer isn’t quite ready to let go and fall is just beginning to whisper about what’s to come.”
It’s hard to believe that nearly an entire year has come and gone since I wrote those words in my last blog post! At the time, I knew deep down the transition I was writing about wasn’t just in reference to the seasons on the calendar. There were transitions happening in my life, too. My seasons were changing. And I needed time to reflect. To regroup. To allow myself to live in the moment- without capturing all of those moments in photos and stories to share publicly.
I wanted to breathe them in and breathe them out. To savor their impermanence.
Have you ever felt that way?
We tend to rush through the transitions from one season into the next. Whether they’re the seasons on our calendar or the seasons of our lives. But so much life happens in those in between spaces. So, if you’re feeling that pull to just be still, to embrace and appreciate your Now…I encourage you to honor that and to take whatever time you need to reflect, to breath and to just be present.
And, in regards to the letting go of summer? Don’t be in too big of a rush to get out your scarves and boots and sip your pumpkin lattes. Fall will be here in the blink of an eye, I promise!
But right now? It’s still summer.
Enjoy the transition.
You don’t have to use eight ball zucchini
I get all giddy when I find fun, seasonal produce. So when I saw these eight ball zucchini at the grocery store the other day? I knew they needed to come home with me. Eight balls are a round, specialty variety of summer squash perfect for hollowing out and stuffing. If you’re lucky enough to find some, snatch them up because they’re only around for a few weeks!
But don’t worry if you can’t find them- this recipe doesn’t require round zucchini to be delicious. Regular zucchini will work beautifully, as well!
The more I think about it, you could use all kinds of vegetables here. Bell peppers, pattypans, little butternut or acorn squash. Even baby eggplant would be great! Look around the produce department and notice what’s in season (in season always tastes best!).
If you decide to go rogue and use something else, keep in mind that you may need to play around with the cooking time. I think I’m going to try this with baby butternut squash when they start showing up in the fall…I’ll keep you posted! And if you try something else please let me know how it turns out?
How To Prep Your Zucchini
Whether you use a regular zucchini or the eight ball zucchini, you’ll want to hollow them out to create space for the filling (and to get rid of the seeds and spongy center).
For eight balls, slice off the top about 1″ down. Next, take a spoon and begin carving out the center, leaving a thick wall. You’ll be able to see where the seeds stop, so start there, moving your spoon all the way around, scooping under and towards the center. If you still see seeds, scoop a little more, until the inside walls look clean. It’s a lot like scooping out your Halloween jack-o-lantern, just smaller. If you don’t want to throw the center away you can chop it up and add to a salad, scrambled eggs, use in an omelette or toss it in the compost bin. You can also keep the lids (bake right in the dish next to the filled squash) and place them on top like little hats for serving.
If you’re using regular zucchini, the prep is similar. Slice them in half lengthwise and scoop just the seeds and spongy centers. You want the squash to be thick enough to hold the filling.
After scraping I season the insides with a nice sprinkle of kosher salt. If using eight balls, place them cut side down in a baking dish and bake them in a 350 oven for 10 minutes before stuffing. If using regular zucchini you can skip the par-baking step.
What Ingredients Do You Need?
- Eight ball or regular zucchini (or any vegetable that’s suited for stuffing!)
- Olive oil, kosher salt & pepper
- Onion and garlic
- Ground beef
- Ketchup and yellow mustard
- Diced tomatoes (lightly drained, juice reserved)
- Dill pickles
- Worcestershire sauce
- Cheddar cheese
How To Make Cheeseburger Stuffed Eight Ball Zucchini
- First, pre-heat the oven, choose your container and prep by scraping out the spongy, seedy centers.
- Season with salt. Partially bake if you’re using the eight balls. Skip the par-bake step if using regular zucchini.
- Next, cook your rice (my preference is jasmine rice) until slightly undercooked. I like to undercook the rice and let it finish cooking in the oven, absorbing the other flavors in the filling. Don’t use raw rice though, it will not cook through and crunchy rice is not appealing!
- While the rice cooks, you’ll start the rest of the filling. Saute onion just until soft. Add the ground beef and garlic and cook until almost cooked through, just like the rice. Letting it finish in the oven keeps it from getting overcooked and dried out.
- Take the onion-beef mixture off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients except for the cheese. I LOVE the chopped dill pickles here. If they aren’t your thing you can leave them out.
- Once it’s all combined, add the shredded cheese (reserve some for topping). I used sharp cheddar but you could use provolone, mozzarella, swiss, pepperjack…
Do. Your. Thing.
It’s Time To Fill Them Up
Now, spoon the filling into your zucchini. I like to mound the filling up on the tops. You want them full, but not packed too tightly. The filling needs a little room to expand. If they’re too tightly packed you’ll end up with a dense, unappealing texture.
As you fill them, arrange them in a baking dish that you’ve drizzled with a little olive oil.
Depending on the number, shape and size of the zucchini you use, you might have extra filling left after stuffing them. If you do, stir some of the reserved juice from your diced tomatoes (and maybe another splash of worcestershire? or a little more ketchup, mustard, pickle?) into the mix and spread it around your stuffed zuchs in the pan before baking.
Almost Ready For The Oven
Remember the cheese you held back? Sprinkle it on top of each pepper and pop the dish into the oven uncovered. Bake for 40 minutes.
All ovens are slightly different, so start checking at the 30 minute mark. If the tops are getting brown too fast cover the dish with foil. If you’re using regular zucchini they might be ready a little sooner. They’re done when a sharp knife poked into the side slides in and out easily. You can also check the internal temp with a probe thermometer to be sure the filling is at 165°f.
After you take them out, let them stand about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with more diced pickles before serving.
What To Serve Along Side
The great thing about this recipe is that it has everything you need for a complete meal. Vegetables, protein and grains. We served ours with a caprese salad (because what’s better than THAT in early September???), but I think any salad, some good bread, maybe crispy, oven roasted potatoes would all be nice companions.
I hope you love this cheeseburger stuffed eight ball zucchini recipe as much as we do!
And as always, I love to hear how my recipes turn out for you and I especially love to see your pictures! Tag me on IG or FB @breathingandcooking with your creations!
And don’t forget to breath, trust yourself…and enjoy the process!
- 4 to 6 eight ball zucchini*
- 1/2 cup uncooked jasmine rice*
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp water
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1-14 ounce can diced tomatoes, lightly drained (reserve the juice!)
- 1/4 cup diced dill pickles, divided
- 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- kosher salt* to taste
- cracked pepper
- 6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Prep and par bake the zucchini
- Preheat oven to 350°f. Slice off the tops of zucchinis and use a spoon to scoop out centers, leaving a thick outer layer (see notes)
- Sprinkle insides of squash with kosher salt and place, upside down, in a casserole dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place squash, right side up, on a plate until cool enough to handle and ready to stuff.
While Zucchini par bakes, make the filling:
- Increase oven to 375°
- Place rice in a sauce pan and add water plus a pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and let cook 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit, covered, 5 more minutes. After 5 minutes, uncover and stir. set aside until ready to add to filling. Rice will not be cooked through and will not have absorbed all of the water. This is ok, we're just partially cooking it. It will finish when it's baked in the oven.
- In a wide skillet heat 1 Tablespoon oil. Add diced onion and saute 1 minute, just to soften. Crumble ground beef up into skillet along with minced garlic. Stir and cook, breaking up ground beef, until almost cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. You still want to see some pink in the meat.
- Turn off heat.
- To the pan add rice (don't drain if it's a little wet), ketchup, drained tomatoes, 3 Tablespoons diced pickles, yellow mustard, worcestershire sauce, kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste (I use about 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and maybe 8 twists of cracked pepper). Stir well and then add most of the cheese (reserving enough to sprinkle tops of zucchini liberally once stuffed).
Stuff and bake:
- Fill hollowed zucchinis completely with filling, but don't pack the filling down tightly. It will expand slightly while cooking. I like to mound the filling slightly on the top, this will depend on how many zucchini you're cooking and how big they are.
- As you fill them place in a lightly greased baking dish (I just drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom). Top each one with a nice layer of cheese
- If you have leftover filling, add the reserved tomato juice (from your diced tomatoes) to the extra filling and spread it around your zucchinis in the dish.
- Bake UNCOVERED in the center of your oven for 40 minutes. All ovens are different, so check at 30 minutes and if the cheese is getting too brown tent with a greased piece of foil.
- Remove from oven once cooked and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
- Top each one with reserved diced pickles and enjoy!
- I made this recipe using 4 zucchini, but there was enough filling for 5 or 6, depending on how full I would have stuffed them. Use your discretion and know that if you stuff 4 you'll have some extra filling after stuffing to add to the pan (thinned with your reserved tomato juice), if you stuff 6 you probably won't.
- I use jasmine rice, but you could use another type of rice (or I think farro would be great, too). Whatever you choose, you'll cook it until just slightly undercooked, so that it finishes while it bakes.
- I salt to taste and always use kosher salt. The granules of kosher salt are larger than table salt, so if you're using table salt be careful not to over salt. I do give a measurement for the filling (because it's not cooked through when you stuff the zucchini) using kosher salt. If you're using table salt, cut that amount in half.
- Eight ball zucchinis have a short season so if you can't find them don't let that stop you from making this! The filling would be excellent in stuffed peppers or even regular zucchini (halved and scooped out like boats), you may need to adjust times accordingly if using a different vegetable. Don't be afraid to get creative- that's the fun of cooking!