Celia’s Zapallitos Rellenos

Recipe created & provided by my Mom and Chef Crusco Catering in Austin, TX


  • 6 Zucchini – cut in half lengthwise, boiled until slightly tender and pulp removed
  • 1 lb. ground Beef
  • 2-3 tbsps. EVOO
  • 1 Red onion – finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves – finely minced
  • 2 tbsps. Tomato paste
  • 1 Can Whole tomatoes – crushed with hands
  • Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper – to taste
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs


  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Wash zucchini well, then slice in half lengthwise. Boil in salted water for 4-5 minutes until slightly tender. Shock in ice bath. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh with a small spoon and set aside. Place zucchini halves on a sheet pan lined with foil.
  2. Roughly chop up the zucchini pulp and place into a colander. Press on the pulp to remove excess liquid and KEEP the liquid in a bowl. Set aside and place a saute pan on med-high heat.
  3. Add the ground beef and cook for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Season with salt/pepper and make sure to crumble the beef into small pieces. Remove from the pan and place into a bowl.
  4. If not much fat is left in the pan, add some EVOO. Add onion and cook until softened (4-5 minutes). Then add the garlic, season with salt/pepper and cook another minute or two. Add the zucchini pulp and season again with salt/pepper. Stir in tomato paste and cook for another couple of minutes.
  5. Immediately add the zucchini water and the can of tomatoes (after crushing the tomatoes with your hands). Increase the heat to high, season with salt and pepper and taste. Once at a boil, add the ground beef, reduce to a simmer and taste again. Adjust the seasoning accordingly.
  6. Add the heavy cream, stir well and simmer for another 5 minutes or so until well combined.
  7. Spoon filling in prepared zucchini halves. Sprinkle with the Pecorino cheese and Panko. Bake the zucchini boats for about 20-25 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Serve with love like my Mom always did for me growing up! Enjoy…