Photo / Leah Goggins, Getty Images / Michael Tran
Padma Lakshmi can do it all—she’s an Emmy nominee, a New York Times-bestselling author and the iconic host of not one, but two beloved food shows. Plus, she’s always posting great recipe tutorials on Instagram—like this no-cook fruity freezer pie or the most original take on the “nature’s cereal” trend that I’ve ever seen.
Honestly, Lakshmi has never steered me wrong when it comes to food and cooking content, which is why it’s no surprise that her recipe for zucchini pudding just became one of my favorites. The recipe appears in the vegetables and side dishes chapter of Lakshmi’s 2007 cookbook Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day (buy it: $35 for the hardcover book or $16 for the paperback version, Amazon).
Lakshmi’s pudding isn’t the sweet dessert kind of pudding—instead, it’s a super simple savory zucchini casserole that develops a cheesy, pudding-like texture as it cooks in the oven, thanks to the mixture of creamy goat cheese, mild Cheddar and egg. The amount of fresh dill in the recipe gives it a tangy, bright flavor that some casseroles can lack, even when they’re made with fresh veggies. Plus, the addition of sweet corn adds a little crunch and a sweetness that tempers the tangy dill.
Making the casserole starts with chopping and boiling your zucchini with bay leaves. From there, all of the ingredients get thrown right into the 9-inch baking dish for a quick stir before going into the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Crushed saltines, butter and seasonings also go into the creamy pudding before it goes into the oven. (You can find the full recipe here.)
I had all the ingredients on hand except for the bay leaves, so I subbed in a sprinkle of dried thyme and dried oregano. (As someone who hates having to go back to the grocery store after just making a trip, I’ll probably use that substitution the next time I whip up this recipe.) I also used an ear of raw, fresh corn in place of the cooked or canned sweet corn kernels.
I sliced my zucchini into 1-inch-wide circles before chopping each slice into quarters, so the mashing step mostly served to break up the juicy, seedy core of my zucchini chunks while still leaving behind big chunks of zucchini flesh that gave the casserole a nice mix of textures. (But chopping the zucchini into smaller pieces would likely make the mashing step much easier.) Despite my substitutions and generally lackadaisical approach to actually measuring ingredients, the recipe turned out perfectly—and it was somehow even better as leftovers the next day.
The next time I make this recipe, I’ll definitely trade the mild Cheddar I used for a medium sharp white Cheddar—partly for a cleaner look and partly because I love white Cheddar. And I’ll add fresh raw corn to the mix again, though I’m sure the recipe would be just as delicious with the cooked or canned corn that Lakshmi calls for in her recipe.