Casseroles are a great way to combine your family's favorite vegetables into a one-dish meal that is sure to please. Our family loves eggplant, zucchini, ricotta cheese & mozzarella (among many other foods) so we combined all those ingredients into a delicious casserole? They loved this dish so much that they requested it 3 nights in a row! You can make this casserole with or without sausage because it's just as hardy without it plus you get the added bonus of it being Gluten-Free and Keto friendly if you follow a keto diet. You and your family will love it! 😋😋
- 2 medium eggplants, firm to touch
- 2 medium zucchini or summer squash (or 1 of each, personal preference )
- 1 lb bulk Italian Sweet or Hot Sausage, optional (bulk country sausage can be substituted)
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes
- 8-10 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
- enough EVOO to lightly coat all the sliced eggplant & zucchini before roasting, plus extra for lightly coating the baking sheet
- salt, pepper, and garlic powder to season eggplant & zucchini before roasting
- 1 cup ricotta (we used whole milk but you can use skim or fat-free if desired)
- 1/2 beaten egg
- 2 shakes crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated plus extra for between layers
- 8 oz. mozzarella, grated & divided in half
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped & divided plus a few whole leaves for garnish
- Cut the end stems from each end of the eggplant, zucchini or summer squash.
- Slice into 1/2-inch thick round pieces.
- With a small pastry brush, lightly brush EVOO over both sides of the eggplant and zucchini.
- Position your oven racks to upper and lower thirds of your oven.
- Preheat oven to 500ºF. Once it reaches 500ºF lower to 425ºF.
- On a small rimmed baking sheet (no parchment paper) place tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves.
- Drizzle 1 Tablespoon EVOO over the tomatoes & unpeeled garlic. Toss with your hands to coat, roast on the top oven rack for 15-20 minutes until tomatoes blister & garlic is soft & caramelized. Remove from oven when done and set aside to cool.
- Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and drizzle a very small amount of EVOO in each pan.
- Arrange the eggplant slices in a singer layer in one of the pans then arrange the zucchini in the second pan.
- Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder over the tops of eggplant & zucchini only.
- Using a pastry brush, use 2 Tablespoons or more of EVOO to lightly brush over the eggplant and zucchini slices in both pans (both sides).
- Place pan with eggplant on top oven rack and zucchini on middle rack and roast at 425ºF for 15-25 minutes until nicely browned but not burnt. Zucchini might brown before the eggplant so check often as individual oven temperatures vary.
- Once browned, use a spatula to flip eggplant & zucchini over. Continue roasting the eggplant & zucchini until brown, about 10 minutes, checking often.
- Once done, remove from oven & let cool.
- In a medium skillet brown the bulk sausage meat until fully cooked. Drain & set aside in a bowl until ready to begin layering process.
- In a medium bowl combine 1 cup ricotta, red pepper flakes, 1/2 beaten egg, 2 Tablespoons chopped basil, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and 6 oz mozzarella. Drizzle a tsp of EVOO and mix with a fork to combine. Add salt to taste.
- Remove the cooked garlic cloves from the cooled tomato pan & move to a cutting board. Using a fork, press on the skins to remove the soft, caramelized garlic. The skins can be discarded. Mash the cloves into a paste then add to the ricotta mixture and combine well.
- In a shallow 2-qt baking dish drizzle some EVOO on the bottom. Arrange 1/3 of the eggplant & zucchini in a single layer. Add 1/3 the blistered tomatoes and scatter them around. Add a dollop of ricotta evenly over each vegetable section (do not spread, leave dollop as is). Add half the drained cooked sausage and sprinkle on top of ricotta dollops. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
- Tear some of the basil leaves and generously scatter around the first layer.
- Repeat step 18 & 19 for the second layer.
- Add remaining ricotta mixture on top of the second layer, top with remaining slices of eggplant & zucchini then add the remaining tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Roman cheese and top with remaining shredded mozzarella.
- Bake approximately 20 – 25 minutes at 425 ºF or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbling.
- Remove from oven. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.
Notes: 2 large and 1 small rimmed baking sheets are needed for this recipe. We used Neese’s Country Sausage (bulk) in this recipe; however, the meat is optional. Add some sauteed mushrooms if you’re a mushroom lover like Teresa is. Can be served as a main dish (4-5 servings) or a side dish (6-8 servings).
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