Verdure al Forno (Baked Vegetable Casserole)

This is a truly customizable dish. You can substitute nearly any vegetable for those listed.

Serves 10

  • 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.

    Eggplant

    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.

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