What to Do with All Those Zukes? Turn to the Italians for Inspiration

If you’ve got a vegetable garden, chances are you’re looking for ways to cook all your zucchini and other summer squashes. (Or maybe a friend or colleague has given you the excess bounty from their garden.) If you need fresh ideas for what to do with your zukes, the Italians are a good source of inspiration. They’re pros at preparing vegetables in flavorful ways.

“Vegetables are the foundation of Italian cooking. Just a glance at the Italian food pyramid tells us that vegetables constitute a great part of the Italian diet,” author and TV host Mary Ann Esposito write in her fine cookbook, Ciao Italia Slow and Easy (St. Martin’s Press, 2007).

The book features a layered  mixed vegetable casserole that Esposito says “is fun to put together.” Assembling the dish is a bit like assembling the various layers of a lasagna. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Esposito, host of the long-running PBS series Ciao Italia, call this casserole “a vegetarian’s dream” — though you don’t have to be a vegetarian to savor this dish. It’s layered “with paper-thin slices of zucchini, summer squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes,” writes Esposito. It also features leeks and red onion.

The leeks and onion are sautéed in extra virgin olive oil until soft. White wine vinegar is added and boiled down. The sliced vegetables — including the potatoes, summer squash, and sweet potatoes — are then layered atop the onions.

The casserole gets a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil before going into a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 50 minutes.

If you’re pressed for time (who isn’t these days), you can slice the vegetables beforehand and store them in the refrigerator. Take them out when you’re ready to assemble the dish.

Need more squash ideas? Our newly released September In Season eNewsletter showcases summer squash. You’ll find recipes and cooking tips for what to do with this prolific family of vegetables.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch