Socca (An Italian Beef, Cabbage & Potato Casserole)

What’s the heartiest dish you know how to make? Chances are, this is heartier.

Picture it: a pestata (or paste) is made with lots of garlic, sage, rosemary and olive oil. That paste is used to flavor sliced red potatoes and cubed beef shoulder which get layered in a giant casserole with cabbage. Then the remaining pestata is mixed with white wine, poured over the mix, which has been dotted with butter. Into a hot oven it goes for 2 1/2 hours, after which the whole thing is topped with grated Fontina cheese and returned to the oven for it to bubble and brown. I told you this was hearty.

Cauliflower Gratin with Gruyère and Goat Cheese

Call me a freak, but I get excited about cauliflower. It’s got great texture and, when cooked properly, can yield lots of big flavor. Most often I roast it in the oven or I caramelize it in a pan; not very often do I boil it, but even boiled cauliflower can hold its own.

On Sunday, I was asked to bring a “vegetable side” to Craig’s aunt and uncle’s Easter brunch. I imagine most people, when presented with this request, would make a crowd-pleaser like mashed potatoes or roasted carrots or mashed potatoes with roasted carrots mashed up in there too which actually sounds kind of good but no one really makes that. Me? I went for a cauliflower gratin.

Broccoli Cheddar Casserole with Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

Eating paste has a special allure, when you’re a kid. First off, there’s the smell, which is chemical and funky. Then there’s the texture, the main pleasure behind eating paste, a texture like white peanut butter, but thicker, barely spreadable with the little wooden stick you dab into the jar. I’m not sure that I ate a lot of paste as a kid (though I was definitely a kid of whom people probably said, “He eats a lot of paste”) but I do believe I’ve found the adult corollary: canned cream of mushroom soup.

Gourmet Tuna Casserole

I found it.

After my first attempt at tuna casserole, I finally found a worthy alternative. I was at the Community Book Store in Park Slope and there on the cookbook shelf was Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian, a pretty dazzling book of recipes from the former chef of A Voce. I took the book to the grimy couch and sat down next to a cat, a dog and an iguana (this store has pets) and began flipping through it and there it was: “Ziti with Tuna, Red Onions and Cannelini Beans.” Was it a casserole proper? Absolutely not. But it had many of the components of a tuna casserole–noodles, tuna, onions–and assembled them in a way that made much more sense to me. I quickly took out a pen and my secret little pad and copied down the recipe, hoping the iguana wouldn’t rat me out to the store owners. On my walk home I picked up the ingredients and cracked my knuckles, ready for Italy to conquer America in the battle of noodles and tuna.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

The chat went something like this.

Craig-At-Work: What’s for dinner?

Me-At-Home: I’m thinking of making a tuna noodle casserole.

Craig-At-Work: Ugh. If I never eat a tuna noodle casserole again for the rest of my life, that’d be ok.

Me-At-Home: Well I’ve never had one before so I’m going to make it, just for the sake of writing about it.


Me-At-Home: Are you there? Hello? HELLO?

Craig-At-Work is no longer online.

Great Late Summer Bake: Zucchini and Sweet Corn

[The Amateur Gourmet is on vacation and, while he’s gone, he’s asked his friends to cover for him. Last year, Adam met Emily Farris when she asked him to be a judge at her Annual Casserole Party in Brooklyn. You can check out her blog Casserole Crazy or pre-order her book, also called Casserole Crazy, which comes out October 7th! Here’s a quick summer casserole to enjoy before it’s truly fall.]

I’m probably one of the few crazies who bake in the summer time. The idea is made even crazier by the fact that I have no air conditioning in my tiny kitchen. Luckily I have some friends who indulge me in my desire to crank up the oven to 400 degrees in late August, and are willing to have impromptu dinner parties on my less-than-glamorous roof.

Last summer, one friend, who lived Uptown, stopped by the Union Square Greenmarket on her way to my Brooklyn apartment every Friday and called to tell me what was available. At that point, I would make up the bare bones of a casserole recipe.

Unfortunately, that friend has since moved back to California, and I’ve been in New Hampshire working at a camp for the past five weeks, but last August this Greenmarket charade, and an abundance of sweet corn and zucchini, led to one of my favorite seasonal recipes. The result was an amazingly fresh, savory—yet sweet from the corn—simple summer casserole.

Serves 4-5


4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

the corn of two cobs

1 large white onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

8 oz. sour cream

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 tsp sea salt

2 eggs


Preheat oven to 400º.

In a 2 to 2 1/2 qt casserole dish, mix the zucchini and corn.

In a mixing bowl mix the remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture over the casserole, cover and bake 35-40 minutes. Remove the cover, stir and bake an additional 10-15 minutes.

Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

The Winning Casserole: Cheese Love

As I hoped, your prodding inspired the Casserole Contest winners, Zack and Graham (pictured above with Emily) to share their recipe. Zack implores: “I can’t over-emphasize the importance of the Bobolink cheddar in this recipe. It is generally only available directly from the farmer/cheesemaker and I know that it is expensive when compared to industrial cheeses, but I have tried making this without the Bobolink and it doesn’t come close in flavor, aroma or texture. Bobolink sells their cheeses at the Union Square Greenmarket on Fridays (check for other market locations).”

Just to restate my enthusiasm for this casserole, I tasted almost 20 casseroles that night and this one was not only far and away the best, it made a casserole convert out of me. I plan to try this recipe immediately. Click ahead to unlock the mystery of “Cheese Love”….

Scroll to Top