Crazy mixed-up casseroles

Very late summer is my favorite time at the farmers’ market because we get to enjoy summer’s bounty—corn, summer squash, tomatoes, basil—and fall vegetables—winter squash, cauliflower, potatoes, greens.  Add to that my interest in not slaving too often or too long in the kitchen, and I’ve been motivated to create some fun casseroles big enough for several meals (you can reheat the casserole to eat by itself or to add to cooked vegetables, cooked rice, or salad fixings).  These casseroles help me clean out the week’s greenery from the fridge, which is another bonus.

No rules—just vegetables, pasta, and cheese layered with herbs and liquid in a casserole dish:

  • Vegetables (some or all on the list), cut to a small size to cook faster: corn kernels, beet, green beans, potato, eggplant, cauliflower, zucchini, pattypan squash, sweet pepper, chile, tomato, fennel bulb, fresh tomato, white salad turnip, winter squash, greens (chard, spinach, kale in strips), tofu
  • Liquid (one or more): fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta sauce, salsa, wine, water, broth
  • Herbs, fresh or dried: basil, herbes de Provence, thyme, fennel seed, rosemary, or any combination that you enjoy
  • Uncooked dried pasta:  lasagna, penne, orzo, or fusilli (usually one type per casserole)
  • Cheese (one or more), grated or in small pieces: fresh or aged mozzarella, cheddar, gruyère, chèvre, parmesan, asiago, or whatever you like
  • Pine nuts or sunflower seeds and/or fresh herbs (optional)

Here’s how I have been making these crazy casseroles, but I’d love to get your input!

  1. In a large bowl, mix the vegetables with liquid (enough to cook the dried pasta and braise the vegetables), herbs, and salt.  Put a thick layer of vegetables in the bottom of a casserole dish.
  2. Layer the dried pasta, cheese, and vegetables, ending with a layer of vegetables. Cover the casserole and put in an unheated regular or toaster oven at 350°F/convection or 375°F/regular.
  3. Check after about 35–40 min. to see if there’s enough liquid (if not, add more). Cook until pasta is soft, then uncover (add some cheese on top if you like) and cook for 15 min. more until top is browned a bit.  Let sit for 10 min. before serving so pasta absorbs any liquid.
  4. Add pine nuts or sunflower seeds on top and/or additional fresh herbs if you like.

One thought on “Crazy mixed-up casseroles

  1. Just the way I prepare my favorite dinners! Always tastes different and a pleasure to savour, and though I use odds and ends from the garden this time of the year, or vegetables steamed the day before it never tastes like leftovers, because they’re not! I think of it as a smorgasbord, a collage, a symphony of flavors….. I could wax poetic!

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