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Stuffed Vegetables in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Vegetables in Tomato Sauce 4.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Weeknight Vegetarian Sep 12, 2021

As fall approaches and summer squash still abound, stuff them and other vegetables with grains and lentils and simmer in a tomato sauce. This recipe from a vegan Iraqi cookbook author originally called for the use of “vegan mince,” or meatless crumbles, and you can certainly use them instead of the lentils here, if you’d like. We tested this using a Lebanese seven-spice blend, but you can also look for baharat or use the combination of spices listed. Feel free to vary the vegetables – eggplant also works well – or to use all of a single vegetable, as long as you keep the total weight to 2 pounds. Serve with more grains of your choice and/or a salad.

Active time: 45 mins; Total time: 1 hour 30 mins, plus 1 hour or more of soaking time

Make Ahead: The rice and lentils need to be soaked at least 1 hour and up to overnight in advance of cooking.

Storage Notes: The stuffed vegetables can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Where to Buy: Baharat or Lebanese seven-spice blend can be found in Middle Eastern markets and online.

4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/3 cup brown lentils
  • 1 medium-to-large zucchini (12 ounces)
  • 1 medium-to-large summer squash (12 ounces)
  • 1 large red bell pepper (8 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (8 ounces), chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus more leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup red or white quinoa
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baharat or Lebanese seven-spice (may substitute a scant 1/2 teaspoon each of ground coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, turmeric and ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt, divided
  • One (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In a small bowl, combine the rice and lentils and add water to cover. Soak for at least 1 hour and up to overnight, then drain.

Cut off the stem ends of the zucchini and summer squash, and cut the stem end off the bell pepper, about an inch from the top; reserve these bits. Halve each squash lengthwise. Using a spoon or corer, remove the flesh in a channel from the zucchini and squash and chop the flesh. Discard the seeds from the bell pepper. Use a fork or skewer to poke holes all over the outside of the vegetables.

Set a shallow Dutch oven, or other heavy-duty, lidded pan that can hold the vegetables in one layer, over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil, and when it shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens and lightly browns, about 5 minutes. Add the soaked rice and lentils, the chopped vegetable flesh, 1/2 cup of the water, the parsley, quinoa, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, the spice mix and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice and lentils start to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, let the mixture cool slightly, then fill the zucchini and squash halves with it, mounding the filling if necessary to use it all, and place one half on top of the other to close them up as much as possible. (Don’t worry if some of the filling is exposed.) Fill the red bell pepper with the filling, again mounding it if needed to use it all. Place the vegetables in the same pan and nestle the reserved cut stem ends against the squash and zucchini, and place the stem-end top back on the bell pepper, to prevent the filling from spilling out too much during cooking.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, mix together the diced tomatoes with the remaining 1 cup of water, the tomato paste, the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Pour it over the stuffed vegetables in the pan.

Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender and the rice and lentils are cooked, 30 to 45 minutes.

Garnish with the additional whole parsley leaves and serve hot.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “The Vegan Iraqi Cookbook” by Lamees Ibrahim (Babylon Books, 2020).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (half a stuffed vegetable plus 1/4 cup sauce), based on 6: 236

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 6g 9%

Saturated Fat: 1g 5%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 548mg 23%

Total Carbohydrates: 38g 13%

Dietary Fiber: 8g 32%

Sugar: 8g

Protein: 9g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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