It’s not very often you’ll see me post a main dish recipe that is meatless, but this recipe is hearty enough to stand alone. I’m a big fan of zucchini and its mild flavour lends itself well to dishes that you add your own flavour layers to. The added benefit is they are packed with essential nutrients, and very easy on the budget.
Start by dicing six small zucchini into bite-sized chunks. (Zucchini are less bitter and optimal in flavour when they are roughly an inch to an inch and a half in diameter, and about six to eight inches long.) Toss the pieces into a sauté pan with a tbsp each of olive oil and butter or margarine.
Zucchini has a very high water content so if you want to use it in a casserole-type dish you have to pre-cook it to remove the excess water so you don’t end up with a zucchini soup.
Add half a pound of baby bella mushrooms to the zucchini in the pan. Mushrooms also carry a high water content and need some pre-cooking. Once you have added the mushrooms, add a tsp of salt and stir well. Salt will help draw out the moisture faster and add some flavour the vegetables.
Using a colander, drain a large can of diced tomatoes. I added the zucchini and mushrooms to the colander and pressed the vegetables lightly with a wooden spatula to remove the water without crushing them.
Empty the contents back into your sauté pan and add a diced onion, a tbsp of oregano, a tbsp of minced garlic, a tbsp of basil, a tbsp of onion powder and a tsp each of black pepper and salt. Mix thoroughly.
Pour the vegetable mixture into a 13 x 9 casserole dish and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add a cup and a half of partly skim mozzarella cheese over the top of the vegetables.
Wipe the sauté pan with a paper towel and melt two tbsp of butter or margarine. Add two cups of breadcrumbs, a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese and a tsp each of basil and oregano. Stirring often so the mixture doesn’t burn, toast until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the dish and bake for 45 minutes. When you take the casserole out of the oven allow it to stand for about ten minutes before serving so the vegetables re-absorb some of the liquid.
The flavours of this zucchini casserole are fabulous, and the crunchy topping adds a great texture over the softened vegetables. This last picture shows a bit of an exploded view so you can see what the dish looks like when you’re ready to dive in.
I hope you give this healthy dish a try and enjoy it as much I did!