Verdure al Forno (Baked Vegetable Casserole)
This is a truly customizable dish. You can substitute nearly any vegetable for those listed.
1 large eggplant
3 red bell peppers
2 yellow onions
1 pound fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic
1½ cups ricotta cheese
¼ cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella
cheese 1 egg
Fresh-cracked black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
Preheat a grill or broiler to medium-high temperature. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into ½-inch-thick slices. Cut the bell peppers in half. Peel and cut the onions into ½-inch-thick slices. Clean the spinach. Peel and mince the garlic.
Combine the ricotta, ½ of the Parmesan cheese, ½ of the mozzarella, the egg, garlic, and pepper. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
Toss the vegetables in the remaining oil. Grill the vegetables for 2 minutes on each side, until just tender (al dente).
In the prepared pan, alternate layers of the vegetables and thin layers of the cheese mixture, starting with a layer of eggplant on the bottom. Grind fresh-cracked pepper over each layer and repeat until all the ingredients are used. Top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan, and finish with another grinding of black pepper.
Cover, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until thoroughly heated and the cheese is melted. Serve hot.
When selecting eggplant (melanzana) in the market, look for firm ones with a smooth texture. Whenever a recipe calls for eggplant slices to be breaded or coated in flour and then fried, you can choose to bake them on a baking sheet instead for less mess and much less fat.