Zucchini Béchamel Boats
I love Zucchini in all its forms, but I have to say this is the best of them all. The combination of the minced beef with the sweet bell peppers inside each zucchini boat covered in sauce and drenched with bechamel is heavenly. Top that with some parmesan breadcrumbs and wow do you have yourself a dish your kids will keep asking for... even those who are not fond of zucchini in the first place.
It might not be the fastest dish, but with some planning you won’t feel overwhelmed. I will point out as we go along what you can plan ahead and make beforehand.
In the middle east we have small size zucchini which makes this dish look super cute. If you don’t though you can totally make this with longer zucchinis, and it will be equally delicious.
- 10 mini zucchinis
- 300 grams ground beef
- 1 medium onion
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ chopped green bell peppers
- ¼ chopped yellow bell peppers
- ¼ cup chopped tomatoes
- ¼ cup grated carrots
- Salt, black pepper, dried basil
- 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste (divided)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- Grated nutmeg
- Salt, black pepper
- Grated parmesan
- Dried basil
* Cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise, and hollow out some of the inside to make a boat shaped zucchini. I found the easiest and neatest way to do this is using a melon baller. You can use a regular spoon if you don’t have one or if you feel it’s easier to use.
* Now we need to give these mini boats some color and crunch. You can do that in a pan, drizzle some vegetable or olive oil and lightly fry them. Or you can do this in the oven under the grill. Whatever you feel is easier for you. This step you can make up to a day earlier. If you have your oven on for any reason, throw in your zucchinis prepping for next day’s lunch.
* While that is happening, in another pan sauté the finely chopped onion in some vegetable oil until lightly golden. Add the ground beef, mix and cook. When the color on the beef starts to change throw in the spices, salt, pepper and cinnamon and leave it to completely cook.
* Once the beef is cooked turn off the heat. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste, the chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, dry basil and set aside. This step too can be prepped a day in advance and kept in the fridge.
* Don’t forget to check on your zucchini.
* Prepare the bechamel sauce. In a pan, melt your butter and add the flour. Toast that for a few minutes on medium heat then gradually pour in the milk whisking all along to avoid any lumps. Add in the salt, pepper and nutmeg, bring to a boil then turn off the heat. The bechamel cannot be prepared earlier. You need to make it right before you pour it on because it tends to thicken when it cools, and you will be left with lumpy blotchy bechamel and not a silky smooth sauce.
* You can make the whole thing in advance though and keep it in the fridge for the next day. You just take it out of the fridge, give it an hour or two to come to room temperature and then pop it in the oven. Simple as that.
* Back to the recipe. Now that you have everything ready, the roasted zucchinis, the beef mixture and the bechamel sauce, you can assemble the dish.
* In your oven dish (chose one you will serve in), lay the zucchini boats, hollow side up. Fill each one with a spoonful of the beef mixture. If your zucchini is larger, you’ll need more than a spoonful.
* Once your done, dissolve the remaining tomato paste in two cups of water. Sprinkle some dry basil and pour this in between the boats. This will give you some sauce and prevent any burning in the oven.
* We top each piece with a generous amount of bechamel sauce and then we top that with the parmesan-breadcrumb-basil mixture.
* Bake in a 180* oven for about 30 minutes.
A beautiful twist on Lasagna, I’m sure you will absolutely adore.