I am from the generation where people bring a casserole to someone’s house for any occasion. Whether it is a celebration or show of support, casseroles had three things in common: They feed many, store well in a refrigerator or freezer, and are always satisfying and comforting. A lot of casseroles are made with soup, meat, cheeses, pasta, and a topping of breadcrumbs. While delicious, they are often loaded with sodium, fat, and unnecessary calories that make the least healthy choice for a meal.
But I still love the concept of a casserole: A large tray of good food full of flavor that is warm, welcoming, soothing or comforting. I decided to explore some of the traditional recipes that I have from family and friends and see how I could turn the casserole concept around. My version is great for pregnant women, families, or kids. This recipe takes focuses on maximizing the flavors of vegetables, most of which are available at any time of the year.
This casserole is packed with healthy nutrients and fiber. The vegetables, when layered and cooked slowly in the oven, blend together to create incredible flavor and works great as a main course or side dish. Its perfect reheated or as a lunch, brunch dish, entrée at a party, or to bring to someone who is vegetarian or gluten-free.
You can use any kind of vegetables that are in season and it works very well with fall root vegetables, spring greens, or even adding in some of summer’s best fruits or vegetables. It’s completely versatile! Try this the next time you want to change up a traditional casserole or impress guests with an easy recipe – and the possibilities of vegetable and cheese combinations is endless!
- 3 plus 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium green zucchinis, sliced into ¼ inch strips lengthwise
- 2 medium, narrow eggplants, seeded and sliced into ¼ inch thick strips lengthwise
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1-pound (about 10 to 12) plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and diced into ½ inch cubes
- 6 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup Panko or dried seasoned breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Grease 2 baking sheets with 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Put zucchini slices and one sheet and eggplant slices on the second sheet. Brush the slices with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes until vegetable slices are tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin over medium high heat. Add the shallots and cook over until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until slightly softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper.
- Grease a baking dish (8 x 8 inch for a thicker casserole or 9 x13 inch for thinner, shorter casserole) with vegetable spray or additional teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Layer half the eggplant and spread ¼ tomato mixture on top. Scatter half the fontina cheese and basil next.
- Layer ½ zucchini and then an additional ¼ cup of the tomato mixture, remaining basil, remaining eggplant and zucchini. Top with any remaining tomato mixture and fontina cheese.
- Mix panko breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle over casserole.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly and crisp. Remove from oven and let stand 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve hot or warm. Serve with a fresh green salad, tossed mesclun salad, alongside fresh fruit, or with a piece of toasted whole grain bread.