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.
The Zucchini Casserole Dish
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.
Good luck getting rid of all those zucchinis, gardeners!
Zucchini Casserole, Vintage, Adapted
- 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.
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.