09 August 2012

Italian zucchini casserole

Grilled Zucchini 1of5
{image credit: Food Thinkers}
Two years ago, it was bread. Last summer, it was stuffed zucchini. This time around, my summer zucchini solution is a lasagna-inspired casserole. When the world offers you vegetables for pennies, you must find something to do with them . . . that is, something in addition to the quick and simple saute in butter.

(Really, I'm finding that when I need a vegetable for dinner, the best solution is a helter-skelter assortment of whatever is in the fridge. Slice and then stir-fry in coconut oil or butter, plus a bit of salt and whatever herbs seem to go best with the main dish. Since I usually have at least three different kinds of vegetables on hand, but they don't always lend themselves to salad (i.e. no lettuce), an ad hoc stir-fry is more reliable.)

Back to the casserole. After we enjoyed it for dinner one night, Jared took the leftovers to work the next day . . . and emailed me over lunch to emphasize how much he liked it. So you see it gets the husbandly stamp of approval, not just mine.


Italian Zucchini Casserole
(adapted from Kitchen Stewardship)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef or turkey
2+ zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds*
1 28-oz jar flavorful pasta sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste, divided
2 tablespoons water
sea salt to taste
1 cup mixed grated mozzarella and Parmesan

1) Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Set a large pot of water to boil.
2) Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and garlic; saute until soft, for about 10 minutes. Add meat and cook until browned and crumbled.
3) Drain any extra liquid from meat and vegetables. Stir in pasta sauce and 2/3 of the tomato paste; taste and add salt if needed.
4) Meanwhile, once the pot of water has come to boil, tip in the sliced zucchini and cook for 4 minutes. Drain in large colander and shake out excess water; let cool slightly.**
5) Whisk the 2 tablespoons of water together with remaining tomato paste; spread on the bottom of your prepared baking dish. Arrange zucchini on top, in two layers of overlapping slices. Add a generous sprinkling of salt.
6) Spoon meat mixture over zucchini layer and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
7) Sprinkle cheese on top and bake for 10 more minutes, until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly at the edges.

Just as with regular lasagna and other casseroles, you can make this ahead of time. I have never frozen it (though I have frozen parboiled zucchini slices, which is a great time saver) but I will often make it in the morning and pop it in the oven later.

*Zucchini don't exactly come in standard sizes. You want enough for two layers on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. If you have those small grocery store zucchinis with a one-inch diameter, you will need four or five. If you have an overgrown baseball bat, you might only need one, with the slices halved or quartered!
**This parboiling step gives your finished casserole a nicer texture and makes it less watery.

No comments:

Post a Comment