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Mac & Cheese Stuffed Zucchini

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baking dish of mac and cheese stuffed zucchini
Andrew Bui

Here’s one way to get more veggies into picky eaters’ mouths: score and scoop out zucchini pulp, chop and cook it down with spices into a cream sauce, then incorporate it into good ol’ kid-approved mac & cheese

To make the process as smooth as possible, the mac comes together in one fell swoop in just one single pot. Using an exact amount of salt, milk, and cream, there’s no need to drain away any pasta water: the elbows cook right in the dairy, turning the sauce silky smooth and perfectly creamy.

To punch in on flavors even more, add spicy pepper jack cheese alongside your yellow cheddar for some heat. If you’d rather it classically mild, just use more cheddar, or substitute in other melty cheeses great for mac: Gouda, Gruyère, or nutty-sweet Parm will all do great.

Once you've made a batch of these zucchini boats, leave us a comment and et us know down below how you liked it!

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Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 0 hours 15 mins
Total Time: 1 hour 15 mins

large zucchini, halved lengthwise

3 tbsp.

butter, melted, divided

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper


small yellow onion, finely chopped


cloves garlic, minced

3/4 tsp.

smoked paprika

1/2 tsp.

ground mustard

1/4 tsp.


1/4 tsp.

freshly ground nutmeg

6 oz.

elbow macaroni

2 1/4 c.

whole milk

1/4 c.

heavy cream

2 c.

shredded sharp yellow cheddar

1 c.

pepper jack

Hot sauce, for serving (optional) 

  1. Using a paring knife, score zucchini (like you’re dicing an avocado) and scoop out insides with a small spoon, leaving a ¼”-thick border intact. Finely chop zucchini pulp and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°. Transfer zucchini boats to a large baking sheet. Brush generously with half the butter and season with salt and pepper. Bake until just tender, about 15 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium-high heat, heat remaining butter. Add reserved zucchini pulp, onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, paprika, mustard, cayenne, and nutmeg, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and creamy, 10 to 12 minutes. 
  4. Add macaroni, milk, and cream, and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until nearly al dente, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually fold in cheeses.
  5. Transfer zucchini boats to a 9”-x-13” baking dish and spoon mac into zucchini. Bake until zucchini is tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
  6. Top with hot sauce before serving, if desired.

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