So, what is one to do with the biggest zucchini they have ever seen? That is a real life question that I was faced with just this week after I was appointed the task of eating said huge zuke. I also gave myself a personal challenge of using that whole zucchini in one shebang.
So what did I do? I made lasagna…or something like it. It didn’t have any pasta in it, but rather alternating layers of zucchini, yellow squash, white wine braised kale and heirloom tomatoes along with the usual suspects: a really good tomato sauce, lusciously flavored ricotta and lotsa cheese! It turned out great!
I chose to thinly slice the zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes by hand and salt them, let them sit and then pat them dry before making this dish to curb excess juiciness but if you like good flavorful vegetable liquid (like for dipping some crusty bread in) then by all means, skip that step.
Here’s to bending the rules!
For the Zucchini and Tomato Layers:
- 1 HUGE zucchini, or two medium sized, thinly sliced
- 1 medium sized yellow squash, thinly sliced
- 2 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
Lay the sliced veggies onto a baking sheet with a rack or if you don’t have that setup (like I don’t) lay them out on paper towels. Sprinkle them with kosher salt and allow to sit out on the counter for about an hour. You will see water begin to pool on top of the slices after an hour. Pat dry each slice with paper towels and set aside.
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 1 heirloom tomato, stem and core removed and roughly chopped
- 2 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 2 wax peppers, roughly chopped
- 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 28 oz can San Marzano Tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon each dried oregano and parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced
- glug of red wine, optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
In the workbowl of a food processor, add the tomato, carrots, celery, peppers, onion and garlic and process into a paste. In a deep skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is shimmering and sliding freely about the pan, add the vegetable paste and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the water has cooked out. When the paste is mostly dry and is beginning to brown, stir in the tomato paste, dried herbs and red pepper flake. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the glug of red wine and San Marzano tomatoes.
Break up the tomatoes with the back of your spoon and taste. Season with salt and pepper accordingly. Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil after you’ve killed the heat.
For the Ricotta:
- 1 15 oz package fresh ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, thinly sliced
- zest of one lemon
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Make sure you taste for seasoning before you add the egg if you’re paranoid.
For the Braised Greens:
- 1 head curly kale, leaves stripped from stems, chopped
- 1 head lacinato kale, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup white wine
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, saute the shallots and garlic in a few teaspoons of olive oil until they are starting to brown. Add all of the greens to the skillet and toss to coat with the oil. Pour in the wine and cover loosely with aluminum foil for five minutes. After five minutes, kill the heat, remove the aluminum foil and stir the greens around to finish wilting. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with one tablespoon of the butter.
Ladle one quarter of the tomato sauce along the bottom of the dish and begin building a layer of zucchini on top of the tomato sauce.
Next, add a layer of the braised greens on top of the zucchini. On top of the braised greens, add one half of the ricotta and a sprinkling of the Parmigiano.
Next, add a layer of yellow squash followed by more tomato sauce and then the layer of heirloom tomatoes. Top the tomatoes with the second half of the braised greens. Then, add the second half of the ricotta along with another sprinkling of Parmigiano, the next installment of tomato sauce and another layer of zucchini. Finally, top with the remaining tomato sauce. Cover the top of the dish with the Panko breadcrumbs and the remaining Parmigiano. Dot the top of the dish with the remaining tablespoon of butter, cut into chunks.
Bake for 25-30 minutes so that the cheese can melt and turn a nice toasty golden brown and the squash softens without losing its beautifully delicate texture!
I served this with a small side salad that was dressed in the residual liquid from the braised greens mixed with a bit of homemade creme fraiche! This meal definitely brightened a rainy evening! I hope you like this one and I hope you have a lot of hungry friends as this recipe conjures quite a substantial amount of food! Cheers and enjoy!