Italy’s simple, distinct cuisine has deep roots as far back as the Middle Ages. World-wide, it is the most popular type of cuisine, and yet very often those hallmark dishes we love contain just a few ingredients. Parmigiana is one such dish that sounds more elaborate than it is. Traditionally, this infamous dish was made with a filling of eggplant (often fried), cheese and tomato sauce and subsequently baked. Those who eat meat have fortified the dish with chicken or veal.
As a vegetarian, I’m always looking for ways to replicate meat-based dishes without significantly changing the overall flavors that make them distinct. Getting my kids to eat eggplant is impossible at this stage in our lives so I decided to use 2 varieties of Summer Squash as a base for my Baked Vegetable Parmigiana. I then layered the squash between homemade tomato sauce and freshly grated Cacique® Mozzarella cheese. Since every baked casserole should have the perfect fusion of melted and crunchy textures, I topped this dish with a mixture of Panko bread crumbs and Cacique® Cotija cheese and finished it with a light Cacique® Crema Mexicana drizzle.
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WHAT YOU NEED
- 1 zucchini
- 1 yellow squash
- 1 cup of freshly grated Cacique® Mozzarella Cheese
- 1 cup of Panko Bread Crumbs
- 2 tbs freshly grated Cacique® Cotija Cheese
- Cacique® Crema Mexicana
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes (I opt for the no-salt variety)
- 1/4 fresh onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
HOW TO MAKE IT
- For Sauce: Sauté onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft (do not brown). Add tomatoes and spices. Puree sauce using a stick blender. Simmer on low-medium heat for approximately 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
- Cut zucchini and squash into thinly sliced rounds, approximately 1/4 inch thick.
- Spoon 1/2 cup pasta sauce over the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking dish. Layer summer squash on top of sauce, alternating zucchini and yellow squash Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Spoon another 1/2 cup pasta sauce on top. Repeat layering process, finishing with mozzarella cheese. Combine Panko bread crumbs with cotija cheese and top dish.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 35-40 minutes, or until cheese has melted and the top of the Parmigiana has browned. Drizzle Crema Mexicana over the top of the dish and serve.
- Tip: This recipe can easily be adapted to include your family's favorite vegetables. Think outside of the traditional eggplant and get creative with potatoes, roma tomatoes, bell peppers and even fennel!.
- Tip: In this recipe, the vegetables are not fried, which is customary in Parmigiana dishes. However, you could grill and bread your vegetables if you'd like a dish that is a bit richer and more indulgent without the additional fat and calories.