Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce or Kousa

Total Time
1hr 30mins
Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr

This recipe is from the middle eastern cookbook by Tes Mallos. My husband is Palestinian and I have been making this for guests for quite a while, even my kids love it! This is the best recipe I have tried for zucchini or "kousa". It does take time and you will need a zucchini corer (mine was a gift from MIL). If you use an apple corer you will have to cut the zucchini into smaller segments. But this is a really wonderful dish, you could also substitute some of the zucchini for small eggplant, as this is traditionally cooked all together with both, but I like zucchini best.

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 2 lbs zucchini, even sized
  • Filling

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter or 1 tablespoon oil or 1 tablespoon plain butter
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)
  • 8 ounces ground beef (if you have an hallal butcher near you ask for Iraqi kabab ( it's a flavorful mixture of both) or 8 ounces lamb (if you have an hallal butcher near you ask for Iraqi kabab ( it's a flavorful mixture of both)
  • 14 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 12 teaspoon ground allspice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • To finish

  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 12 cup clarified butter or 12 cup regular butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup peeled tomatoes, chopped (or one can chopped pealed tomato)
  • 14 cup tomato paste (I use 1/2 cup for a richer sauce but DH says this is not the "proper" way)
  • 1 cup water
  • 12 teaspoon cinnamon (don't leave this out! MIL says anything with tomato should have a pinch of cinnamon)
  • salt
  • water


  1. Choose either medium or small zucchini. Wash well cut of stem end. Using a corer hollow out zucchini leaving rounded end intact. Try not to puncture the skin. Soak in salted water for 10 minutes.
  2. Gently fry onion in butter until transparent. Add pine nuts after 10 minutes cook with onions for another 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
  3. Add pan contents to ground meat, rice parsley, spice and about a teaspoon of salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of water if need to be easy to work with (I don't add water).
  4. Fill zucchini with stuffing. (The rice expands and the meat will shrink so fill them all the way).
  5. Prepare the sauce: in a frying pan gently fry chopped onion in butter. When transparent add chopped garlic cook for a few seconds and chopped peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, water and cinnamon with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Ladle some of the sauce into the bottom of a heavy based pan, arrange zucchini in layers adding sauce to each layer, you may have 2-3 layers of zucchini. Or I stand them up on end with the open side up (again DH tells me this is not the "proper" way to do it but if they burn then only the one end is ruined).
  7. Add enough water to just cover the zucchini with sauce, you may or may not need to do this depending on how much sauce you have.
  8. Cover and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours or until veggies are tender and rice is cooked.
  9. Serve hot or warm with sauce and Arabic pita bread for dipping.
Most Helpful

This is my go-to recipe for Koosa. My MIL (who was raised eating her mother's Lebanese food) says my Koosa is delicious- and that's a huge win in my book! I don't even like zucchini, and I love this recipe. Thanks for sharing this!!!

barbara_ferguson78 August 25, 2016

Very good and flavourful, with only those few spices I was pleasantly surprised. This will be my go to recipe for stuffed kousa with tomato sauce. I used fresh allspice and the optional pine nuts, medium green zucchinis cut in half, butter, extra lean ground beef with some canola oil added to the mixture instead of water, white Basmati rice, flat leaf parsley, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, extra chopped tomatoes from a can of plum tomatoes that I chop myself plus a bit of tomato sauce, I used the tomato liquid from the can rather than water in the sauce, plus the rest. This is called Kousa Mihshi Bi Bandoura in The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos. I would make this again!

UmmBinat December 24, 2010