Have I got your attention? Good. This week’s Meatless Monday recipe is a mozzarella lover’s dream. While perusing one of the many vegetarian cookbooks that I own, I came across a variation of this dish and it immediately caught my eye. After all, it’s loaded with ingredients that I love, it’s a layered dish and there’s CHEESE. Yeah, I’m a sucker for cheese.
This Italian Cheese Gratin recipe starts off a little convoluted because of all of the draining involved, but it is well worth the effort. Had I not inadvertently picked up a can of spicy stewed tomatoes and used it in the recipe, my husband would likely have eaten it all! [He’s not a big fan of spicy heat]. Leftovers the next day were even better! I hope you have a chance to make my Italian Cheese Gratin, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Bon appetit!
Italian Cheese Gratin
- 4 large zucchini, diagonally sliced
- 2 (14 ounces each) cans of stewed tomatoes, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup sliced green onion
- 12 ounces baby spinach, stems removed
- Mediterranean Spiced Sea Salt or sea salt
- Tuscan Seasoning OR Italian Seasoning
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
- 16 ounces fresh mozzarella (NOT shredded)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400°. Blanch the zucchini in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Remove from water, drain well and dry zucchini thoroughly (a paper towel works well).
Drain the stewed tomatoes in a colander to remove as much excess liquid as you can. [NOTE: You can use pre-diced tomatoes, but I find the flavor of stewed tomatoes to be better.]
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onions and cook until just tender. Remove from pan. Add spinach to the pan and cook until just wilted. Remove from pan and drain as much liquid out as possible.
[NOTE: Noticing a trend here with all of the draining? There’s a very good reason for that. You’ll want as little moisture as possible in this dish. The tomatoes and zucchini will create their own moisture while cooking so any excess is going to be, well, excessive.]
Once the zucchini is well-drained, layer half (layers can overlap) of it in an ovenproof, shallow dish. [NOTE: I used a dish with an approximate size of 8″x11″.] Sprinkle with seasonings. Spread half of the tomatoes on top of the zucchini. Sprinkle half of the basil on top, followed by half of the green onions and then the spinach.
Place half of the mozzarella slices on top in an even layer. Repeat all layers once more. When finished layering, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese on top browns nicely.