Fresh herbs and zucchini are currently overflowing from our garden.  The kale, chard, and spinach will make a comeback as cooler weather returns.  So, for the next recipe in my Sargento flavor journey, I am cheating a little. Shhhhhh!  (For the backstory and the Top 10 Food Trends, follow this link.)

I bet we aren’t the only ones who are eating a lot of green in the way of zucchini and basil right now.  So, for the sake of a versatile, all-in-one dinner, I am temporarily forgetting the word “bitter” in my bitter greens food trend.  For good measure, I am borrowing another food trend that does not belong to me:  mushrooms.  But never fear, like any good pizza, this recipe may be tailored to suit your tastes.  If mushrooms aren’t your thing, leave them out.  If you love pepperoni and black olives, add some of those.  And really, there is no reason why a few bitter greens or spinach couldn’t be added to the veggie mixture.  If using frozen, simply thaw and squeeze out the excess moisture.

In addition to being an excellent way to use seasonal produce in a one-dish dinner that lends well to advance preparation and reheating, I love how this recipe includes layers of several different cheeses to maximize flavor.  While mozzarella is a traditional pizza cheese and works just fine in this recipe, two of my favorite substitutes are the 6 Cheese Italian and the Authentic Mexican, the latter includes flavor-packed cheeses such as Manchego and Asadero and is what I used this time around.  The addition of smaller amounts of Parmesan and sharp cheddar adds an extra zing of flavor.  Feel free to experiment with your favorite shredded cheeses.

As an added note, Sargento’s finely shredded cheeses are perfect for topping or “finishing off” a recipe as they melt beautifully.  I also find that a smaller amount of the more finely shredded cheese goes a long way.  So, if you are looking to reduce calories, you may find you can sprinkle a little less on top and still feel satisfied.

Zucchini Pizza Casserole

Yield: 6 hearty servings; 8 regular portions

Zucchini Pizza Casserole

We love the addition of mushrooms in this recipe but, like your favorite pizza, feel free to mix in your favorite toppings such as black olives, green peppers and pepperoni. If readily available, several tablespoons of your favorite fresh herbs–basil, thyme, oregano, and/or parsley–added with the pizza sauce will enhance the flavor. The beauty of this all-in-one meal is its versatility.

  • 4 cups shredded (from approximately 1 pound), unpeeled zucchini and/or summer squash (see notes)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Sargento shredded cheese, divided (I like Authentic Mexican or 6 Cheese Italian; Mozzarella works well, too)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Sargento shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup Sargento Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (could substitute ground turkey or sausage of choice–or use half of each)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pizza sauce
  • Fresh basil for garnish, optional

  1. Place the zucchini in a strainer, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand for 20-30 minutes. Using a clean tea towel, squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible.
  2. Combine zucchini with the eggs, all of the Parmesan, and half of the two other cheeses. Press into a greased, 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  3. Bake, uncovered, at 400° F for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the onion and mushrooms in a large, oiled skillet over medium heat until the mushrooms have released their moisture and are nicely browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If using pre-sliced mushrooms, I like to roughly chop with a metal spatula while sautéing.) Transfer to a plate.
  5. Next, brown the meat and drain, if necessary. (Sautéing the meat and veggies separately gives the mushrooms a chance to really brown.) When the meat is cooked, stir in the pizza sauce, the cooked vegetables, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill. Simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  6. Spoon the meat mixture over the cooked zucchini mixture.
  7. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses, and bake 20 minutes longer or until heated throughout. Sprinkle with fresh basil, if using, and enjoy!

Notes

The shredding blade of a food processor makes quick work of shredding the zucchini. A box grater works well, too. One pound of zucchini should be sufficient to yield four shredded cups. In a pinch, shredded potato may be used in combination. Simply add to the zucchini, salting and draining together.

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