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Channel summer with a vegetable gratin

by Andrews McMeel Syndication | May 24, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
CAPTION 01: Photo by Lynda Balslev for Tastefood

Eat your lasagna and have your vegetables, too, with a veggie-enhanced rendition of a family favorite. This layered gratin resembles a lasagna, with one key difference: There are no pasta sheets. It's a glimpse of summer to come, with planks of roasted Mediterranean vegetables rippling with tomato and dollops of ricotta in a gratin-cum-lasagna.

Roasted eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash slices keep this dish light and colorful, alternating with a bright tomato sauce and fluffy ricotta. All the components can be prepped in advance, ready for last-minute assembly when you are ready to bake. Pre-roast the vegetables; by doing so, the oil is kept to a minimum. The tomato sauce is simple to make, but a favorite store-bought tomato sauce can easily be substituted. And be sure to use whole-milk ricotta cheese for best flavor and results, as the skim variety can be grainy and tasteless.

Roasted vegetable gratin

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Tomato sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


16 ounces whole-milk ricotta

¼ cup (packed) finely grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus about 1 cup more for sprinkling

1 garlic clove, minced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise, ¼-inch thick

3 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise, ¼-inch thick

3 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise, ¼-inch thick

Olive oil for brushing

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and saute until soft without coloring, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, salt and black pepper. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes. (Cool and refrigerate the sauce until use if preparing in advance.)

Whisk the ricotta, the ¼ cup pecorino, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper in a bowl until smooth. (Refrigerate until use if preparing in advance.)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Arrange the eggplant slices in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Arrange the zucchini and squash on a separate baking sheet lined with parchment. Lightly brush the vegetables with oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast the vegetables in the oven, in batches if necessary, until tender and golden in spots, 15 to 20 minutes for the zucchini and squash, and 25 to 30 minutes for the eggplant. Remove the vegetables from the oven and reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees.

To assemble the gratin, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of a 2.5-quart gratin or 9-inch-square baking dish. Arrange a layer of eggplant slices over the sauce. Smear dabs of the ricotta over the eggplant, then drizzle with some of the sauce and sprinkle with pecorino cheese. Repeat the layering process, alternating the zucchini and squash with the eggplant, until all the vegetables are added. Drizzle any remaining sauce over the gratin and around the edges. Finish with dabs of the remaining ricotta and an additional sprinkle of pecorino.

Transfer to the oven and bake until bubbly and golden brown on top, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based in northern California. Visit TasteFood at

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