This ground beef zucchini rice casserole is a delicious stovetop one-pot recipe made with ground beef, sliced squash, garlicky onion tomato base, and rice. This recipe is a time-saving recipe that mimics the famous Middle Eastern stuffed squash recipe called mahshi kousa.
Mahshi kousa is a famous delicious dish that uses cored squash (aka kousa in Arabic). This ground beef and zucchini casserole, however, is made without having to core squash (Yay!). It's a one-pot, quick, and easy meal with all the great flavors of this traditional dish.
Flavorful minced ground beef (or lamb) is browned to perfection with onions and garlic then slow-cooked with sliced squash, tomatoes, and rice.
What You Will Love
This minced meat and zucchini rice casserole is such an easy one-pot weeknight meal that reheats incredibly well. It's a perfectly balanced meal that has minced meat, tons of squash, onions, garlic, tomatoes, rice, and spices. The best part about this dish is the number of vegetables jam-packed inside. Hello picky eaters!
- Minced ground beef: I prefer semi lean ground beef for this recipe (85% to 90% lean). Ground lamb is a suitable alternative.
- Rice: Any type of rice will do for this recipe, however, I prefer to use medium-grain rice like Jasmine rice.
- Lebanese seven spices or allspice: Lebanese seven spices is a mixture of seven spices mixed together (black pepper, white pepper, allspice, ground clove, nutmeg, cumin, and cinnamon). It's commonly used in Lebanese and Middle Eastern cooking (chicken shawarma, kibbeh, etc). You can find it on Amazon, in a Middle Eastern grocery store, or make Lebanese seven spice at home yourself. If you don't have any on hand, substitute ground allspice or ground cinnamon.
- Calabaza Squash (Kousa): Kousa means squash in Arabic, but it means a particular type of squash. Kousa squash is the same as calabacitas squash (I've also seen it called calabaza squash or Mexican squash). It's little in size with yellow and green coloring. If you can't find this particular type of squash at your grocery store, you can use two substitutes: large green zucchini or baby green zucchini.
- Fresh garlic: This squash rice casserole recipe uses a lot of garlic. I recommend using fresh garlic cloves.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: My favorite olive oil right now is Whole Foods 365 Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.
How To Make Ground Beef Zucchini Rice Casserole
Chop the onions and garlic. Slice the ends off of the squash. Chop the squash into circles.
In a nonstick pot, add the olive oil on high heat.
Add the chopped onions and garlic to the olive oil.
Caramelize the onions and garlic on medium-high heat for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the minced meat (ground beef or ground lamb).
Brown the beef and break up the clumps. Add the salt, pepper, and Lebanese 7 spice to the ground meat. Mix well.
Add the sliced squash.
Then, add the canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and water.
Mix everything together well.
Cook on medium-high heat covered with a lid for about 25 minutes or until the squash starts to tear apart.
Add the rice.
Add an additional cup of water and mix. Turn the stovetop down to low heat.
Cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes until the rice is tender.
Check halfway through and stir. Serve with some lemon and cucumber mint yogurt.
Tips and Tricks
The two main tips for this squash and rice casserole are the stovetop setting and the amount of liquid in the pot. Every stove and pot is different, elevations play a factor, and even the type of rice used can affect things. Therefore, make sure throughout this recipe that there is enough liquid in the pot and that the bottom isn't burning.
I generally stir the squash and rice casserole every 10 to 15 minutes, especially the first two times I made it myself. It can be more hands-off after you have made it a few times.
Variations and Substitutions
- Substitute green zucchini for calabaza squash. If you can't find calabaza squash, green zucchini comes in a close second.
- Use an extra can of diced tomatoes in lieu of tomato paste.
- Substitute ground lamb for ground beef.
A nonstick stovetop pot or Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot are the best pots to use for this recipe. Make sure the pots have a lid, so the rice can steam slowly.
You will also need:
- Chefs knife
- Cutting board
- Wooden spatula or High temp spatula (to brown the meat and onions)
Store this squash and rice casserole in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 to 5 days. This recipe is also freezer-friendly, just store the rice casserole in an airtight freezer container for up to 3 months.
Kousa is small yellow and green squash known as calabaza squash (sometimes called calabacitas or Mexican squash) used in many Middle Eastern recipes.
Ground red meat, like ground lamb or ground beef, goes best with squash.
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Ground Beef Zucchini Rice Casserole (Sliced Mahshi Kousa)
- 5 cups sliced squash Calabaza, calabacitas, or Mexican squash** see note 1
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 lb minced ground beef or ground lamb
- 1 cup long-grain rice
- 14.5 ounces can of diced tomatoes
- 6 ounces can tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Lebanese 7 spices or ½ tablespoon cinnamon
- 5 cups water or chicken broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the garlic and onions to the same size. Slice the ends off of the squash. Slice the squash into thin circles.
- In a nonstick large pot on high heat, add the olive oil. Once it starts to heat up, add the chopped onions and garlic. Sautee until starting to brown.
- Add the minced meat to the sauteed onions. Break apart any clumps and cook until browned (about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the ground 7 spice, salt, and pepper.
- Turn the heat down slightly to medium-high heat. Add the sliced squash, canned diced tomatoes, canned tomato paste, and the water. Mix everything together. Cover and simmer on medium-high heat for about 25 minutes or until the kousa squash starts to break apart.
- Add the rice. Mix well. Cover and cook on very low heat for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender. Mix at the halfway mark again so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Add water if needed (maybe ½ a cup or cup).
- Substitute zucchini squash for kousa squash. Due to size differences, slice 5 cups of zucchini for an equal parts substitute.