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Vegetable and Meat Casserole

 

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It was a typical Saturday. I was at work and Victor was lounging in front of the TV eating Bon-Bons. His thumb was getting sore from channel-surfing when he landed on the Saturday PBS cooking shows. Back in those thrilling days of yesteryear when I also had a Monday-Friday job, we’d always have the PBS cooking shows on in the background as we did our weekend puttering around the house. It’s good that one of us can keep up the tradition.

Food Network may have 24/7 cooking, but the PBS shows are quality. It’s a perfect example of less is more. Quality vs quantity.  I’ve gotten many more recipes from PBS cooking shows than any other TV station and we’ve bought a few cook books because of them, as well. 

So… today Lidia comes on and before the hour is over, Victor is at the grocery store buying zucchini. Zucchini. The vegetable I pretty much never buy because Victor doesn’t like it. That zucchini.

She was making a zucchini and potato casserole that had his mouth watering. Zucchini. Go figure.

I came walking into the house and was immediately greeted with the most fabulous aroma wafting from the oven. My mouth started watering and I didn’t even know what it was! Now, I generally have a smile on my face when I walk into the house, but it turned into a huge grin, immediately!

It was an even bigger grin when we sat down to eat.

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Nonna complimented me on how good the dinner was. I had to let her know that it was actually her son who made it and she turned to Victor and said “Really? You made this?” She sometimes forgets he used to own his own restaurant and knows his way around a kitchen just a bit. Meals can be quite amusing around here…

Lidia’s original recipe called for ground turkey – or any other ground meat – so Victor made it with a beef/veal/pork blend similar to a meatball or meatloaf mix.

Zucchini and Meat Casserole

adapted from Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb zucchini, diced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef/veal/pork blend
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 3/4 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced , (¼ inch thick or less)
  • 8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 cup grated Grana Padano or -Parmigiano–Reggiano
  • 2 tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the zucchini is tender, then remove vegetables to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the ground meat. Cook and stir until it is crumbled and browned, about 4 minutes. Then clear a space in the pan and add the tomato paste. Let it toast for a minute, then stir it into the meat mixture. Add the wine and bay leaves, bring to a simmer, and cook until the wine is reduced and saucy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onions and zucchini.

Toss the potato slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining teaspoon of salt. In a medium bowl, toss together the two cheeses.

To assemble, butter a large 4-quart baking dish. Layer the potatoes in the bottom, and sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Layer all of the meat mixture, then all of the remaining grated cheese. Cover with foil and bake on the bottom rack until bubbly around the edges, about 20 minutes. Uncover, and bake until the top is browned and crusty, about 15 minutes more.

It really was great. I went back for seconds.

And I now have a standing order for Bon-Bons to be delivered every Saturday Morning!

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