Of all the recipes I've done for Giada at Home on TV, this one has been the biggest hit with both viewers and my crew. I've always said that if you want to get kids (and picky adults) to eat something, bake it with marinara and cheese and theyll be demanding seconds. Youll be happy because theyre eating lots of healthy veggies, theyll be happy because it tastes awesome, and as an added bonus, your kitchen will smell fantastic, too. Use any vegetable that you love or have on hand in this dish; its very versatile.
Unsalted butter, for the pan
1 medium eggplant, cut into ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced ¼ inch thick
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thirds
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thirds
1 orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thirds
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce (3 ? cups)
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup plain dried bread crumbs
Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish.
Toss the eggplant, fennel, and bell peppers with the ¼ cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until softened.
Spoon ¾ cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and ? cup of the Parmesan cheese. Arrange the peppers in a single layer on top. Spoon ¾ cup of the marinara sauce over the peppers. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and ? cup of the Parmesan cheese. Layer the fennel on top and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses on top. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the cheese and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden and forms a crust. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Cooks Note: The vegetables can also be baked in a 375ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened.