Bringing two cultures together in one delicious dish
My husband and I are both first generation Canadians as our families immigrated from across the ocean—mine from Italy, his from England.
Remember the movie, Big Fat Greek Wedding? Substitute Greek for Italian and you have our families in the same situation. The rambunctious, informal side meets the formal-high-tea, quieter side. However, it didn’t take long for my husband to become an I.B.M. (Italian by Marriage) and for his family to join in with our family’s boisterous get-togethers. they even embraced the way I enjoy Italianizing many dishes—including their beloved traditional British fare….(at least that’s what they tell me), 🙂
One of the dishes I put an Italian spin on is Shepherd’s Pie.
This is an unforgiving (put your own twist, substitute the herbs or type of vegetables and/or meat if you wish) no-fail recipe. This is a delicious crowd pleaser, I hope you’ll give it a try.
ITALIAN SHEPHERD’S PIE
For the vegetable layer:
3 zucchini (green or yellow or a mixture of both)
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Wash, dry and slice zucchini into approx. 1/4 inch rounds and put in a bowl
- Drizzle zucchini rounds with olive oil, and stir to coat all the rounds
- Add bread crumbs and toss to coat all the zucchini
- Spread the coated zucchini onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray).
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Set aside.
For the meat layer:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. Italian sausage (spicy or mild, your choice)
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup tomato sauce (or if you don’t have any, tomato paste)
1/4 vegetable broth (or chicken or beef broth, whatever you have on hand)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
- In a skillet, cook the meat until browned and cooked through.
- To the skillet add the sweet red pepper, shallot, tomato, broth, and stir well.
- Bring the meat mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, simmer for 10 – 13 minutes (you want the liquid to evaporate as much as possible)
- Once done, remove from stove, stir in the fresh basil and set aside.
For the potato layer:
1 ½ lbs. potatoes (I use Yukon Gold, you can use whichever variety you enjoy)
1 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (this will be used later, when assembling the dish)
salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of cold water (add salt to water) to boil.
- Peel and rinse potatoes, cut in about 1-inch chunks and add potatoes to boiling water.
- Cover pot until water boils again.
- Reduce to medium heat and simmer until potatoes are tender enough to mash.
- While potatoes are cooking, add milk and minced garlic to a pot. On medium-low heat, cook milk and garlic, stirring—for five minutes.
- Once potatoes are done, drain them and return to the pot, then add: milk-garlic, oil, mozzarella cheese, and mash until creamy and smooth. You can add a bit more milk if desired.
- Taste, and if needed, add a bit more salt.
ASSEMBLING THE DISH:
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray (I use a 9 x 13 one, or you can use an oval one, whichever you have on hand)
- Spread the meat mixture at the bottom, as evenly as possible.
- Add the zucchini slices on top to cover the whole dish
- Top with the mashed potatoes to the edge of the baking dish, which creates a seal, preventing any of the juices from bubbling over.
- Add Parmesan cheese all over the top, then smooth potatoes with spatula.
- Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes—until the potatoes are browned on top.
- Let sit for 5 minutes, then serve with bread, salad or a side of your choice.
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