When my kids were little, I remember going bathing suit shopping with three small children in tow. (The last child, number 4, had yet to be born.) Like most women, I’d rather pour lemon juice on a paper cut than shop for a bathing suit, especially after having incubated, grown and given birth to multiple children. The only thing that could make this task even more painful was to try to get it done with three bored and antsy preschoolers in tow.
After what must have seemed an eternity to my eldest son, he said, “Mom, just buy one of those zucchini bathing suits and let’s get out of this Lady Store!”
Little did this child know that due to his weighing in at 9 lb 2 oz, leaving stretch marks from my neck to the my knees, his mother’s days of wearing “zucchinis” (bikinis) were forever behind me.
However, I am quite fond of cooking with zucchini, and this casserole below is one of my favorite ways to use up the abundance of zucchini squash that seem to overflow everyone’s backyard garden all summer long.
I created and made this casserole last week, and it seemed to get even better the next couple of days, as I enjoyed for a vegetarian lunch or a side dish with dinner. It’s a little trouble to make, but it makes a bunch and keeps beautifully in the fridge for several days. Just cut a slice, nuke and enjoy! (Would be a great take-to-work lunch.) It also makes a gorgeous colorful side dish to go with a simple meat like baked chicken, fish, or hamburger patty for the omnivores in your family, while making a satisfying meal for any vegetarians among you. With a few tweaks, this can easily be made into a vegan-friendly dish as well.
Vegan version below.
Add cooked seasoned ground hamburger, turkey, chicken, or Italian sausage for an all-in-one main dish casserole.
Using same technique experiment with a variety of veggies and cheeses. Try using Alfredo sauce in place of marinara.
Becky’s Layered Italian Veggie Casserole
Serves 10 to
Olive oil to coat large skillet (1 to 3 Tablespoons)
1 eggplant, peeled, sliced about ¼ inch thin
2 smallish or 1 large potato, unpeeled, sliced about ¼ inch thin
1/3 c. water
3to 4 zucchini squash, sliced ¼ inch
3 to 4 yellow squash
6 slices Swiss cheese (or mozzarella or any white cheese that melts; almond or soy cheese for vegans)
4 cups marinara sauce, your favorite brand, your favorite homemade recipe or my quick blender marina sauce below * (Try to choose or cook a marinara that is a little on the thick side.)
½ c. to 2/3 c. grated Parmesan, Asiago or other firm Italian cheese (Vegans, click on this link for a recipe for fake vegan parm)
1 ½ c. crushed buttery whole wheat crackers like Ritz or Town House brands (vegans use vegan-friendly crackers of your choice)
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter or Earth Balance for Vegans
1 t. oregano or Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
In large skillet, pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil around skillet then sauté eggplant slices until partially cooked, Using tongs, place eggplant in a layer in bottom of big rectangle 11 by 13 inch baking dish. Next, partially cook potato in same skillet, adding 1/3 cup water. Then add this layer on top of the eggplant. Salt and pepper the eggplant-potato layer to taste. Pour two cups marinara sauce on top of potato and eggplant.
Lay Swiss cheese or other white cheese on top of this layer. Next (using same skillet), lightly sauté zucchini and yellow squash together, adding more oil if needed. Put this layer on top of Swiss cheese. Lightly salt and pepper the squash. Pour two more cups of marina on top of squash.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (or vegan substitute) Melt butter with olive oil in skillet, add crushed crackers, and stir until evenly coated. Pour buttered crackers atop casserole. Sprinkle with 1 t. oregano or Italian seasoning.
Bake at 350 until cheese is hot and melted and crackers are golden brown about 20 to 30 minutes.
* Becky’s Quick Blender Marinara
1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes with basil
1 small 4 oz. can tomato paste
1 c. water
1 t. salt
1 t. Italian seasoning
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 t. brown sugar
(optional: fresh basil leaves, ¼ cup red wine)
Put all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth, or until as chunky as you like it. Makes about 4 cups marina, perfect for this recipe.