Anchor into this saffron-kissed Paella Stuffed Zucchini complete with plump shrimp and savory chorizo. This gluten- and dairy-free dish showcases zucchini’s versatility as the perfect vessel for mouthwatering paella.
The farmers’ market tables piled high with gorgeous green and yellow zucchini largely served as the inspiration for this recipe. I typically buy smaller zucchini because they’re less spongy in the center. However, the larger counterparts are ideal for stuffing. Just scrape out the seedy middle to use in fritters or zucchini bread, and leave ¼ to ½ inch of flesh all around. Give the shells a head start in the oven to soften with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. They’ll finish roasting when filled with the paella. The goal is to have them tender but still maintain their shape to hold the filling.
Paella Stuffed Zucchini
Paella definitely goes down as one of our family’s all-time favorites. This streamlined version doesn’t require any special equipment, just a large skillet. The chorizo and poblano pepper add just the right amount of heat that balances beautifully with threads of saffron, tender rice, and caramelized onion and bell pepper.
Now, saffron is rather expensive. It comes from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus. According to The Epicentre, it takes 75,000 blossoms or 225,000 hand-picked stigmas to make a single pound, making it the world’s priciest spice. If you’d like a substitute, Iron Chef and The Kitchen co-host, Geoffrey Zakarian, suggests combining ½ teaspoon paprika with ¼ teaspoon turmeric, which is also known as Indian saffron. I have not tried this, but let me know if you do! 🙂
Once the rice is done, fill the zucchini with the paella and top off with shrimp that was bathing in a simple marinade of olive oil, paprika, oregano, lemon juice and zest. Pop the piled shells back in the oven to roast the shrimp and finish the zucchini.
In about ten minutes you’ll have these beautiful zucchini boats that look almost too good to eat, and a tantalizing aroma wafting through your house. Even though we just had these last night, I’m ready to face-plant in the photo as I write. I hope you give this a try and enjoy it as much as we did. If you’d like to see other Spanish-inspired dishes, check out our Chorizo and Fingerling Potato Skewers and Grilled Tomato Gazpacho. Cheers!
- 24 uncooked large shrimp (21-25 ct), peeled, deveined and tails removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 4 large green and/or yellow zucchini, each about 9 inches long and 12-14 ounces
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces chorizo, diced
- 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 poblano pepper, diced (about ½ cup)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- ½ cup arborio rice
- Good pinch of saffron threads
- 1 ¾ cups chicken stock
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- Lime wedges
In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil, paprika, oregano, and lemon zest and juice. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller or small spoon to scrape out the centers of the zucchini, leaving a ¼-inch border around all edges. Discard the scooped out centers or save for another use. Arrange the zucchini shells on the baking sheet, cut side up. Brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. While the zucchini are roasting, start preparing the paella filling. After 15 minutes, remove zucchini from oven. Set aside. Maintain oven temperature.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chorizo; cook, stirring often, until browned in spots, 4-5 minutes. Add the onion and peppers; cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring often. Add the rice and saffron; stir 1 minute. Add the stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender but not mushy, 18-20 minutes. Stir in the peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Fill partially-baked zucchini shells with rice mixture. Place 3 shrimp on top of each rice-filled zucchini. Bake until shrimp are just opaque in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Top with chopped parsley and squeeze of lime.