I’m a fiend for courgettes, but not everyone feels the love. Fair enough – when cooked badly, courgettes can create an unpleasant and watery ratatouille, or a dark green, floppy disc in a plate of Mediterranean vegetables.
Treat the humble courgette kindly though, and you’ll reap the rewards. A friend recently took inspiration from Rosie Ramsden’s cookbook, The Recipe Wheel, and made this recipe which grates courgette and then ‘cooks’ it in lemon juice as a bruscetta topping. So fresh, so delicious.
Spiralizers are flying off the shelves as ‘courgetti’ becomes increasingly popular amongst people who are eating no-carbs, gluten-free, Paelo, 5:2 etc. And trend for vegetable cakes is proving to be an enduring one, as Pinterest is filled with images of Chocolate Zucchini Muffins, Courgette Chocolate Cake, and Chocolate Zucchini Bread.
Good ol’ grilled, barbecued or roasted courgette can all be delicious too. So when I got my hands on this pair of Piccolo Courgettes, I decided to roast and stuff them with (a sort of!) bolognese. They make a really delicious and healthy change to pasta or spaghetti. Make a big vat of ‘bolognese’, and freeze in muffin cases, (see below) to introduce an extra level of frugality.
Standard Bolognese Recipe
2 tbsp oil
2 onions, diced
750g beef mince
4 garlic cloves, crushed
120g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
3 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp Lea & Perrins
4 pucks of (defrosted) frozen spinach
Salt and Pepper
1. Heat the oil in the pan. Cook the onions until softened, but not coloured, and then cook the garlic.
2. Add the beef mince, and stir until browned. While cooking the mince, add the mushrooms so that they start to sweat in the heat.
3. Tip in the tinned tomatoes. Put a bit of tap water in the bottom of each tin, and swill around to rinse all the tomato residue off the sides. Tip this into the pan too. (Don’t use more than 25ml water in each tin).
4. Add the tomato puree. Put the lid on, and let the bolognese gently bubble away on the hob for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. When the bolognese is close to finished cooking, add the Lea & Perrins (to taste), and the spinach. Season with salt and pepper.
For the Stuffed Piccolo Courgettes
1. Slice off the top of the courgette, like a lid.
2. Use a spoon to scoop out the inside of the courgette. You can then grate, or finely-chop this, and add it to the bolognese.
3. Rub a little salt and oil all over the courgettes – inside and out – and then put them in the oven at 180°C for 45 minutes – 1 hour, by which point they will be tender and soft, and only slightly starting to wrinkle.
4. Fill with bolognese. Grate Parmesan or Chedder over the top. Put the lid back on, and serve.
- When cooking bolognese, it’s often worth making a big vat, then freezing it for ‘emergencies’. I freeze bolgnese in a silicon muffin tin. Once it has formed frozen pucks, then pop them out and store in a dated freezer bag. That way, you can thaw smaller portions as and when you fancy it (see below), rather than freezing/defrosting an entire litre tub.
- You shouldn’t keep reheating bolognese. So it you cook a big vat, and then keep it in the fridge, just heat up portions as and when you want it. Don’t keep reheating and chilling the whole vat.
- The bolognese recipe above is the simplest of simple of bolognese. If you want to try something a bit more sophisticated, then a good place to start is with Italian Cooking Doyenne, Marcella Hanzen, who uses ground beef, pork and veal, and interestingly adds white wine.
- You don’t have to use round courgettes for this recipe. Make ‘boats’ using regular-shaped courgettes (image above). Cut them horizontally and scoop out the seedy centre. Roast. And then pile bolognese along the middle, top with cheese, and finish under the grill.
- When it comes to stuffing courgettes, there are so many options – many vegetarian. Try stuffing them with pilaf rice, a vegetarian chilli or herby quinoa.