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Stuffed vegetables in tomato broth in a large saucepan with a kitchen towel under the pan

Vegetarian Middle Eastern Stuffed Zucchini (Koosa Mahshi)

A traditional Levantine dish of zucchini (koosa) that's stuffed with a tomato herb rice mixture and slow cooked in a flavorful tomato broth. Must try!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 300kcal


For the vegetables- zucchini plus your choice of eggplant, bell peppers, potatoes and/ or tomatoes. I used:

  • 12-14 small zucchini (koosa)
  • 3 assorted bell peppers
  • 3 whole tomatoes
  • 4 potatoes

For the rice stuffing:

  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 green chili pepper , seeds removed and finely diced
  • 2 heaped tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato sauce *see note
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 cups Egyptian rice, soaked for 20 minutes and then well strained.
  • 1 bunch each parsley, dill, and coriander, finely chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

For the tomato broth:

  • 3 heaped tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 vegetable or chicken stock cubes dissolved in 4 cups hot water (if not vegetarian, can use chicken)
  • 2 cups strained tomatoes (tomato passata OR 2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes that you puree)
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • salt to taste


For the vegetables:

  • Wash all the vegetables, then cut off the top of each and use a corer to remove the insides and hollow them out. Do it gently so as not to split the zucchini. Scrape the insides of the zucchini carefully, making room for the stuffing. Reserve the inside of the zucchini, you can store these in the fridge or freezer and use them for a lot of good recipes

To make the stuffing:

  • Heat some oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir for a few minutes or until onions start to turn a light golden brown. Add the garlic and the chili pepper, cook for one minute or until fragrant, then add the tomato paste and stir.
  • Add the tomato sauce and hot water, cumin, black pepper and salt, and allow mixture simmer for 10 minutes.
  • After the mixture has simmered. add the strained Egyptian rice and the chopped herbs and allow rice to cook around 10 minutes or until halfway cooked. Remove mixture from stove and allow to cool.

Stuffing the vegetables:

  • Stuff each cored vegetable with the cooled rice mixture, leaving about 1/4 of empty space since rice will expand further with cooking.
  • Line a large saucepan with slices of tomatoes and potatoes to cover the bottom. Arrange stuffed vegetables on top of this layer, trying to keep the zucchini and other vegetables upright. Stuff them in close to each other. Keep this pot aside while you prepare the broth.

For the tomato broth:

  • In a large bowl, mix together the tomato paste, the 2 cubes of stock dissolved in 4 cups of hot water, 2 cups of the pureed tomatoes or tomato passata, and dried mint. Taste to see if you need to add salt.
  • Place the saucepan with the stuffed vegetables on the stove over medium high heat, and pour the tomato broth mixture all around the vegetables, until they are nearly submerged (3/4 of the way covered with tomato broth). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low to allow vegetables to simmer for 1-1.5 hours until vegetables are tender and cooked through.
  • Portion stuffed vegetables into serving plates and lade extra tomato sauce from the saucepan. Some people like to eat this with yogurt. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from Afnan AlJoher .
You can prepare stuffing and core zucchinis a couple days in advance. You can even stuff them with the half cooked rice, keep them in the fridge, and then cook them the next day.


Calories: 300kcal