This Mediterranean vegetable casserole is one of my oldest and favorite recipes. It takes minutes to put together and then you just pop it in the oven for tender vegetables in a hearty garlicky rich sauce.
Why you’ll love it:
- It’s incredibly easy to make (I used to make it at university all the time).
- It’s very hands-off: After chopping the vegetables and mozzarella, just mix everything together and pop it in the oven.
- It’s really rich and tasty.
- It’s vegetarian (can easily be made vegan by removing the mozzarella).
- This recipe makes some generous portions with just a few ingredients.
- It canbe made ahead of time and freezes well.
- It’s surprisingly low-calorie!
If you came here to make this recipe because you have a glut of zucchini then you might also want to try my easy zucchini marinara. For another hands-off recipe, you can’t go wrong with the easiest vegan tomato soup (you don’t even need to stir it!).
What to serve it with
This vegetable bake can be served over mashed potatoes, with pasta or rice, but really I highly recommend serving it with couscous. Serve it to one side of the couscous (or the couscous will absorb all the yummy sauce).
PRO TIP: Regular couscous is best made (ignore package instructions!) by adding the couscous to a wide shallow Tupperware container along with a little salt and olive oil. Then add the same ratio of boiling water (e.g. one cup of couscous requires one cup of boiling water), mix quickly and seal the lid tightly. Leave for five minutes to absorb and then fluff up with a fork.
Ingredients and substitutions
There are just a few simple ingredients required for this casserole. You can check the image below to make sure you have the correct ingredients, and below we’ll discuss if anything can be omitted or substituted.
Onion: This is a necessary ingredient. I used yellow onion but you can use any type you prefer. Make sure to chop it finely as it’s the ingredient that takes the most amount of time to cook.
Zucchini: I’m actually not a huge fan of zucchini but it is lovely in this bake, it gets nice and tender and not mushy at all. If you really hate it though or don’t have any, you can substitute it with some other vegetables like aubergine or potato, just make sure to peel them.
Oregano: I use dried oregano in this recipe to give just a little bit of flavor (fresh is too overpowering). If you don’t like oregano or don’t have any you can substitute it with dried basil.
Black pepper: Freshly ground black pepper gives this bake a lot of flavor but if you don’t have a pepper grinder then either omit or substitute with an eighth of a teaspoon of regular ground pepper.
Garlic: Just like with the onion, this is a necessary ingredient and really makes the sauce sing. If you don’t like garlic then you could try omitting but it won’t taste as good. Don’t substitute with ground garlic as it has a completely different flavor profile.
Hot sauce (optional): This is completely optional but a little bit of spiciness really shines here. One and a half teaspoons will give you a mild bake, increase to two teaspoons for medium or over two and a half for hot. Use a vinegar-based hot sauce like Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot sauce.
Red wine: This is a necessary ingredient for the sauce. I wouldn’t worry too much about the alcohol as it’s just a cup between six servings and as it bubbles away for an hour most of it will burn off. You can substitute with alcohol-free red wine or low-alcohol wine if needed. I just use regular cooking wine but you can use any red wine you like.
Mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella gives texture and flavor to this casserole but if you don’t have any you can substitute with some crumbled feta instead – it will taste different but equally awesome! Do use full-fat mozzarella, low-fat releases a lot of milky liquid into the dish and changes the taste (and not in a good way). For vegans, you can omit or substitute with some chunks of a nice vegan cheese (my vegan goat cheese for example).
Salt: Very necessary to season the sauce – use a low-sodium or no-sodium alternative if you’re watching your sodium levels.
Crushed canned tomatoes: These cook up better than canned chopped tomatoes in my experience, but if all you have are chopped canned tomatoes then you can blend them up and use them that way. Passata can also be substituted. I don’t recommend using fresh crushed tomatoes as they’re too watery. If you can get them, San Marzano crushed tomatoes are the best ones to use.
How to make it
This veggie casserole comes together in minutes and then bakes away by itself in the oven (no need to stir or cover).
First, preheat your oven to 410º F (210ºC). Quarter your zucchini lengthwise and chop. Drain and roughly chop the mozzarella into one-inch pieces.
Peel the onions and garlic and add along with the zucchini and mozzarella to a casserole dish. Use a ceramic or Pyrex baking or casserole dish of 13 x 9 inches x 3 (or slightly larger), around 5 quarts.
Add the rest of the ingredients (image one above, the chickpeas, wine, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and oregano, hot sauce if using) and mix well (image two).
Add to the oven and leave undisturbed to cook for between fifty minutes to an hour, until the sauce is nice and thick on top and the onions are tender. Remove and let cool for a few minutes and then serve with the side of choice.
Yes! You can freeze it either before or after baking but for best results freeze before. Just make sure it’s tightly covered before freezing. When ready to make it then defrost in the fridge overnight. When fully defrosted leave on the counter for an hour to come to room temperature (so the dish doesn’t crack from a sudden temperature change) and then bake as usual. If the dish was already baked when frozen, bake on 300º F until warmed through (20-30 minutes).
Leftover casserole will keep up to five days tightly covered in the fridge or up to three months if frozen.
- 1 large zucchini (about 17.5 oz/500g)
- 9 oz. full-fat fresh mozzarella (250g)
- 1 large onion
- 6 large cloves of garlic
- 2½ cups cooked chickpeas (14 oz/400g)
- 1 cup red wine (240ml)
- 35 oz canned crushed tomatoes (1 kilo)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1½ teaspoons hot sauce (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 410ºF (210ºC). Quarter the zucchini lengthwise and chop. Drain and chop mozzarella into one-inch pieces. Peel and finely chop onion and garlic. Add everything to a 13 by 9 by 3 inch or 5-quart baking dish.
- Add all the other ingredients (chickpeas, wine, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, and hot sauce* if using). Mix well.
- Place in the middle of the oven and bake for between fifty minutes to an hour. The casserole is done when the onions are cooked and the top is nice and thick.
- Remove and allow to cool for five minutes before serving**. Enjoy!
*1½ teaspoons of hot sauce for a mild dish, 2 for medium-spicy and 2½ or over for hot. Use a vinegar-based hot sauce.
** Serve with a side of couscous for the tastiest combination, but it's also lovely over pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes.
Amount Per Serving Calories 328Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 27mgSodium 892mgCarbohydrates 38gFiber 10gSugar 13gProtein 18g