1lb.ground beef (I used 96% extra lean)see note below for vegetarian option
1sweet bell pepper, diced
2medium tomatoes, chopped
1onion, finely chopped
2tablespoonschopped fresh basil
¼cupgrated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Halve the zucchini lengthwise. Hollow out the zucchini by scooping out the pulp, reserving the shells. I like to use the small end of a melon baller for this, but a teaspoon also works fine. Finely chop the pulp and set it aside to use later.
Pour tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or a similar size large dish). Arrange zucchini shells in the dish. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add reserved zucchini pulp, beef, bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until beef is no longer pink (about 8 minutes). Drain skillet. Stir in basil.
In a separate bowl, combine Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
Pile the beef mixture into the zucchini shells in the prepared dish.*
Sprinkle the top of each zucchini half with about 2 teaspoons of the breadcrumb mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through and golden brown on top.
VEGETARIAN OPTION: Omit beef. Sautee vegetables in the skillet, as instructed. When vegetables are soft, stir in 1 can (about 1.75 cups) drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, as well as the chopped basil. Use this vegetarian filling to stuff the zucchini shells and proceed with recipe above. Baking instructions remain the same.FOR A VEGAN OPTION: Use beans as described above and omit the Parmesan breadcrumbs on top.*You will probably only need about ½ of the meat mixture to stuff the zucchini. If you have extra meat mixture leftover, you can freezer or refrigerate it for later use. For instance, stir the leftover meat mixture into a jar of marinara sauce and serve over pasta. Or use the leftover meat filling to stuff baked potatoes, another batch of zucchini, or even bell peppers. Wrap the beef and vegetables in tortillas, add cheese, and serve as tacos!