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Zucchini Apocalypse

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If you are a backyard gardener–like my grandmother was, like my father was, and like I was for a brief time–you know what that title means. The Zucchini Apocalypse is as dreaded among gardeners as a Zombie invasion. Toward the end of summer, those little green monsters are so numerous that you can’t keep them picked off the vine before some of them hide under the leaves and grow to a size worthy of the Guiness Book of World Records. They get so big you don’t know whether to cook them or attach a sail and go exploring the ocean. It is zucchini casserole time, for sure.

But don’t worry, I’ve been there. Before the zuchs get out of control, you can start making zucchini bread, zucchini pickles, stuffed zucchini, zucchini pizza, and a thousand and one other variations. Here’s a recipe that my sister-in-law gave me many, many decades ago, for a very vintage zucchini casserole . I’ve updated it in a couple of ways, but I left the most vintage touch of all–mushroom soup.

Zucchini Casserole from side

The Zucchini Casserole Dish

Size of casserole dishes

This recipe makes a VERY BIG casserole dish full. A word on the size of the bowl. After all, your fancy casserole dishes may not have measurements marked on the the side. I went with a 2 quart Pyrex bowl this time, but it definitely was not big enough. 2 1/2 quarts is ideal.  How do you know what size your bowls are?  Pour measured water into them. Time to return to grade school math class.  Four cups equals one quart.  I have a four-cup measuring cup and the Corning Ware bowl takes two and a half quarts to fill it to the brim.  The Pyrex dish, on the other hand, holds just two quarts.

I recommend a deep rather than a shallow dish. My favorite for the zucchini casserole is this big Corning Ware baking dish. The pictures of the finished casserole show it in a two-quart pyrex dish, which isn’t really big enough. Make two and give one away if you don’t have a big enough dish.


Well, we’ve all been there haven’t we? Shut the oven door and notice there is something that did not get included in the dish or pan? I forgot to layer the Ricotta. So I slathered it on top. Didn’t hurt a thing.

Zucchini with afterthought ricotta

Good luck getting rid of all those zucchinis, gardeners!

Zucchini casserole serving

Zucchini Casserole, Vintage, Adapted

This Zucchini casserole has been updated to make it a wee bit healthier, but retains mushroom soup as a nod to the past.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword casserole, vintage, zucchini
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 12
Author Vera Marie Badertscher


  • 1 Cup brown rice Cook in 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 stalks celery Alternatively, one onion chopped, or a blend of celery and onion.
  • 1 Teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano I used Penzy's Greek Seasoning Blend.
  • 1 1/2 pound zucchini sliced in 1/2" pieces
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese or fine cottage cheese
  • 1 cup canned mushroom soup not diluted
  • 1 cup grated cheese eg. cheddar/monterey jack mix


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix rice in boiling water, reduce to simmer and cook until done–about 45 minutes
  • While rice is cooking, chop celery (and/or onions)
  • Brown ground beef in skillet with celery/onions
  • While beef is cooking, slice zucchini and put half in bottom of casserole
  • When rice is cooked through, add to beef in skillet along with garlic and oregano (or preferred seasonings).
  • Layer beef/rice mix over zucchini in casserole, next add ricotta and then rest of zucchini. Spread soup as top layer and scatter cheese on top.
  • Bake 35-40 minutes (less if using two smaller dishes) at 350 degrees.


I did not recommend adding salt and pepper because there  are LOTS of flavors going on here. There is so much salt in the mushroom soup and also some in cheese. But besides that there is a bit of salt in the spice blend I used.   On the other hand, you have plenty of room to bend the flavors in the direction you wish.  I liked using the Penzy Greek Spice Blend –oregano, lemon, marjoram, garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper. But I could imagine turning the casserole in different directions with spices. French with tarragon and thyme; Mexican with chile, etc.

Before you go, I’d like you to know about a couple of tricks for improving your vegetable cooking skills. One: If you are on Facebook, join the Fearless Fresh Kitchen Ninjas group. It is an amazing, sharing site for home cooks. A few trained cooks and professionals are there, too, so you will get great answers to any questions. Two: Stephanie Stiavetti, who started that Facebook group,also has a series of video lessons and other aids to improving your skills in the kitchen. Her latest series on cooking vegetables is FREE. Go here.

On the other hand, if you’d like to turn back the clock, I wrote some time ago about what Godey’s Lady’s magazine had to say about cooking vegetables back during the Civil War.

1960s Lobster Recipe

I must admit that I go a little bit crazy when I get to Maine or New Brunswick or Nova Scotia where lobsters are plentiful. I love lobsters, and to be able to get a full lobster meal for the price I would pay for a lobster salad at home—well, it is just heaven.

Catching Lobster for my lobster recipe in Nova Scotia

Lobster traps along the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia

My favorite memory of a meal while traveling was one summer when my husband and I and our three boys joined his sister and parents for a Cape Cod vacation. We saw a notice in a throwaway newspaper for a local organization’s Lobster Bake on the beach. The meal was heavenly. Someone took pity on us and gave us plastic utensils and paper plates (which we didn’t understand we were supposed to bring) and we stood around the huge pit while the smoke bore the aromas of roasting meat and shellfish and corn.

Soon the guys running the show shoveled off the dirt and rocks, scraped off the seaweed and dug up the wire baskets of clams, lobster, sausage and ears of corn. I’ve never smelled anything quite as good! That probably was where I first got hooked on lobster.

Lobster and Clam bake

Lobster and Clam bake

In Maine a few years ago, I pledged to eat lobster three times a day to make up for all the days I’d miss in Arizona. I managed to do it with the help of a friendly chef who made a lobster omelet for me for breakfast, and McDonald’s who serve a lobster roll along with their more plebeian offerings.

So here I am this year traveling in Nova Scotia where all things seafood are abundant–crabs, shrimp, lobster and everything else to make my mouth water.


However, when I think of my pilgrim ancestors and their approach to lobster, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Briefly–they looked DOWN on lobster, thinking it was kind of a cheap, everyday source of protein that they would eat only because their beloved beef and pork were not available when they first arrived in America. There they were in New England, the waters teeming with seafood of all kinds, and they didn’t like any of it (except maybe oysters.)

Not until the 19th century did lobster come to be seen as a gourmet item on menus. In the 60s, as a young bride, I chose this lobster casserole as my go-to gourmet company dish. I certainly could not afford to buy a whole lobster–let alone have a clue how to cook it.

But I’m happy I’m in Nova Scotia and New England and I can eat LOTS of lobster this week and I don’t have to take small chunks and stretch it with noodles.


Lobster Casserole

Serves 8-10
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total time 2 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Milk, Shellfish, Wheat
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Gourmet, Serve Hot


  • 8 rock lobster tails
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion (or fresh to taste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon angostura bitters
  • 12oz package noodles (cooked)
  • bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup capers


1. Allow 8 hours to thaw lobster tails if frozen.
Cooking lobster and noodles.
2. Broil lobster tails 5 to 10 minutes; OR simmer lobster tails 8-12 minutes until meat is opaque. Cook noodles to firm texture (they will cook more in casserole), rinse in cold water and set aside.
Cooking lobster
3. Let cool while making white sauce.
White Sauce
4. Mix flour and seasonings. Melt butter. Whisk in seasoned flour. Add cream and milk, stirring constantly over medium heat until thickened.
5. Set white sauce off heat while preparing lobster.
6. Cut each tail in half lengthwise.
7. Cut one of the halves of each tail in chunks, and set the other aside to top the casserole.
Prepare Casserole
8. Stir the chunks into the white sauce and add sherry.
9. Put cooked noodles in buttered 3-quart casserole. Pour lobster chunks with sauce on top of noodles and stir gently.
10. Scatter bread crumbs on top of casserole
11. Bake in moderate oven until hot and bubbly.
12. Top casserole with reserved tail halves, brush with melted butter mixed with drained capers.
13. Return to oven for about 10 minutes.


Angostura Bitters was a commonplace for any decent home bar in the 50s and 60s, but if you don't make Manhattans at home, you may not have any at hand. The bitters have a distinctive flavor (supposedly more than 40 ingredients go into it) so be warned your dish will be different if you substitute lemon, Worcestershire Sauce or another sauce.

Some kitchens also do not regularly stock capers. If yours is one of those caper-less kitchens, consider buying a small bottle. They had a nice punch to this dish and other --particularly fish--dishes. Try them in tuna salad, for instance.