If you know anyone with an allotment, or any growing patch, there’s a high chance they’ll have planted some courgettes. From just one seed, a bounteous plant emerges, triffid-like, sending out shoots to find ever more space to grow its delicious fruit and flowers. There are many ways to cook a courgette, but I often put them at the centre of the plate. Filled with piquant rice and a butter-rich tomato sauce, they make a stunning, vegetable-led main course.
Courgettes stuffed with red rice, green olives and confit tomato sauce
The rich tomato sauce has an incredible flavour but experiment with adding guajillo chilli for added depth of flavour. This recipe also works beautifully with aubergine.
Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr
Salt and black pepper
175g red rice
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme, picked
5 large courgettes (250-300g)
80g green olives, pitted and halved
A handful each of roughly chopped parsley and tarragon leaves
45g pine nuts, toasted
For the tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
900g fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped, or 2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes, crushed
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Dried chilli flakes, or ½ guajillo chilli, finely diced, or to taste (optional)
Bring 350ml salted water to a boil, add the rice, bring back to a boil, then simmer until the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave the rice to steam – it doesn’t matter if it’s still a bit al dente.
Put the oil in a wide pan on a medium heat, add the onion, season generously, then add half the thyme and leave to sweat gently while you prepare the courgettes.
Cut the four largest courgettes in half lengthways, then scoop out the flesh with the help of a sharp knife and teaspoon, leaving an edge of about 4-5mm. Chop up the scooped-out courgette flesh, then finely dice the remaining courgette. Add the scooped-out flesh and diced courgette to the onion pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes, until softened.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and start on the sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and, when it’s sizzling, add the garlic and chilli, if using. Once the garlic starts to brown at the edges, add the tomatoes, season generously, add the remaining thyme and simmer gently for half an hour. Blitz smooth (I use a hand blender), then leave in the pan to bubble gently over a low heat while you stuff the courgettes.
Put the hollowed-out courgette boats on a large oven tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, season generously, then roast for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the cooked rice with the onion and courgette mix, the chopped olives and half the soft herbs. Taste the filling and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Stuff into the parbaked courgette halves, crumble the feta on top and drizzle with a final flourish of olive oil. Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the courgettes are just tender, and serve immediately or at room temperature, scattered with the toasted pine nuts, the last of the herbs and the warm tomato sauce.