Meatball-Filled Summer Squash Boats

Turn the summer's bounty of squash into these fun, meatball-filled boats. Baked in marinara sauce and covered in cheese, they're simple enough for the family but impressive enough for guests. A good meatball recipe is a handy thing to have in your repertoire. Meatballs make trouble-free party food when simmered in a sauce or grilled on skewers, but they're quick and kid-friendly enough for everyday meals as well. These squash boats straddle both categories, so they're especially useful.

TOTAL TIME:1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Âľ lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 mild Italian sausage, or 3-4 oz. crumbled Italian sausage
  • 4 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • ½ lb. button or cremini mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) marinara sauce, or 2-3 cups homemade marinara
  • 8 oz. mozzarella, shredded

Directions

  1. Heat your oven to 350° F. Beat the egg in a small mixing bowl, then add the milk and whisk until they’re well mixed. Stir in the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and set the mixture aside.

  2. Crumble the beef loosely into a mixing bowl, then slice open the sausage and add it in pieces to the ground beef. Discard the casing. Fold the beef and sausage together so they’re evenly distributed, then add the breadcrumb mixture. Combine them with your hands or a spatula until just mixed.

  3. Scoop out the meat mixture onto a sheet of wax paper, in portions roughly the size of a cherry tomato. Roll them lightly between your palms to give them a uniformly round shape. Heat a large, heavy skillet over a medium burner and sear the meatballs in small batches until they’re nicely browned. Transfer them to a large bowl and set aside.

  4. While the meatballs are cooking, cut each squash in half lengthwise. Trim away the stem ends, then hollow out the pulpy middle with a spoon or melon baller. Leave roughly ÂĽ” at each side so the squash won’t fall apart. Chop the pulp coarsely and reserve it at the side of your cutting board.

  5. After the meatballs are browned, pour off most of the fat from your skillet and turn the heat down to medium. Add the diced onion and mushrooms (if you’re using them). Stir until the onion is translucent but not browned, and the mushrooms have released their moisture. Add the garlic and chopped zucchini pulp and cook until the squash is completely soft, about another 8 minutes.

  6. Arrange the squash boats side by side in an oblong baking dish. Spoon meatballs into each squash until they’re filled, then top them with the onion mixture. Distribute any remaining meatballs around the baking dish, wherever there’s open space. Pour the marinara sauce over the boats, covering them evenly, then top with the shredded mozzarella.

  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the squash boats are completely tender when pierced with a knife and the sauce and cheese are hot and bubbly. If you wish, you can increase the heat to 450° F for the last 8-10 minutes to lightly brown the cheese.

  8. Rest the boats for at least 10 minutes after they come out of the oven so the sauce and cheese can cool, then serve alongside rice or pasta.

Nutritional Facts

Tip: Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible after the meal – never longer than 2 hours afterward – and eat them within 3-4 days.