Casseroles Around the World: Lasagna, Panade, & Sformato

If you love casseroles, Italy is the place to go. The cooks in that country have invented countless ways to throw a bunch of ingredients in a dish - especially the leftover bits of pasta, bread, and vegetables - and transform them into something irresistibly good. How can you pick just one?
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In our mind, the quintessential Italian casserole is the lasagna. Fresh ricotta cheese, tangy tomato sauce, and various vegetables, all sandwiched between layers of chewy pasta and mozzarella. We love all the variations on it from the Classic Lasagna and this Meatball Lasagna to our No-Boil Chunky Lasagna and even Vegan Lasagna.

The panade is another Italian classics and one of our favorite cold-weather comfort foods. All you do is take day-old bread, mix it with whatever leftover vegetables and any cooked meat you might have in your fridge, and moisten everything with a bit of chicken stock. The bread soaks up the stock and turns incredibly creamy and rich in the oven. Here's the Basic Panade Recipe that we pull out whenever the craving hits.

Baked ziti, stuffed manicotti, timballos of layered vegetables, gnocchi baked with pungent cheese, and even our new favorite sformato - these are all Italian inventions of the best sort. We'll take a scoop of each, please!

What's your favorite Italian casserole?

Some recipes to inspire your next dinner:

Baked Penne with Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes from Martha Stewart
Tetrazzini - Special Spaghetti Cake from Jamie Oliver
Gnocchi alla Romana - Polenta Gnocchi from Giada de Laurentis, Food Network
Eggplant Timbale from Leite's Culinaria
Macaroni and Cheese with Prosciutto and Taleggio from Epicurious

Related: Italian with a Twist: 7 Takes on Tiramisu

(Images: Martha Stewart, David Loftus/Jamie Oliver, and Faith Durand)

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