I have been serving one vegetarian meal a week for the last few months. In the beginning, my kids were asking, “Why?” (Meaning, why would I serve a meal with out meat?!) I explained the benefits to their bodies and their planet. They looked at me like I was crazy but indulged me and now they are getting used to this routine. They don’t ask where the meat is. They are actually enjoying the vegetarian dinners and tonight was another win. Pasta Vegetable Gratin is a healthy twist on mac n cheese that will have your whole family smiling.
My dinner prep began by making the pasta. As the pasta cooked, I moved to the frozen broccoli (because it was easier than cutting fresh broccoli), cooked it in the microwave and cut it into very small, maybe even unrecognizable, pieces. Next I warmed the frozen peas in the microwave, diced the yellow squash, and set the veggies aside.
When the pasta was done, I drained it and placed it in a lightly sprayed roasting dish, adding the peas, broccoli, and squash on top and mixing them into the pasta. Lastly, I sprinkled the cheese on top and lightly stirred into the pasta.
Then it was time to make the sauce. First I melted the butter in the sauce pan. Then I stirred in flour for about a minute and then added the milk. After bringing the mixture to a boil I mixed in the parmesan/manchenga cheese and the spices, and poured it over the pasta.
Due to an cow’s milk allergy in my house I used coconut milk drink instead. (This is not coconut milk that comes in a can. This is called coconut milk drink – it is an alternative to cow’s milk and comes in a shelf stable container and is usually displayed near the milk.) It is a great alternative and doesn’t have a “coconut” taste. However, it is a bit runnier than regular milk. I should have added less. The recipe calls for 2 1/4 C of milk. When I make this again and use coconut milk drink, I will only use about 1 3/4 C.
I baked the casserole for 30 minutes and served.
Pasta and vegetable gratin is a winner! My son rated the dish a 9.5, my husband a 10 (and he likes his meat…) and my toughest critic, my daughter, rated it a 9. The flavors blend nicely and the coconut milk drink just blended right in. I forgot to put the breadcrumbs (no surprise…) on top but everyone liked it just the same. It would probably enhance the flavor so if you are not opposed to gluten, add the bread crumbs when you make this vegetarian dish that non-vegetarians will love!
Pasta and Vegetable Gratin and Side Salad
Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids for 2 meals or 1 meal and lunches
16 oz. penne pasta
1 yellow squash, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 scallions, finely diced
1 C frozen peas
1.5 C fresh or frozen broccoli
1 clove garlic, minced
1 C sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 T butter or plant-based margarine
1 T unbleached flour
2 1/4 C milk or 2 C coconut milk drink (original flavor)
1/4 C grated parmesan (cow’s milk) or manchenga (sheep’s milk) cheese
1/8 t nutmeg
1/4 t dill
1/2 t salt
1/4 t paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
pepper to taste
2 T bread crumbs
1. Cook pasta al dente. Pour into shallow baking dish.
2. Stir all vegetables, including garlic. into pasta.
3. Sprinkle cheese on top and lightly mix in.
4. Melt butter in sauce pan. Stir in flour, let bubble and whisk until it turns beige. Stir for about a minute.
5. Add milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
5. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and spices.
6. Pour sauce over pasta mixture and stir slightly. Sprinkle on bread crumbs.
7. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown on top. Consider baking the yams for tomorrow at the same time.
8. Serve and see if you miss the meat in this hearty vegetarian dish!
Pre Prep Opportunities
1. Cook pasta ahead of time and store in refrigerator.
2. Dice all vegetables ahead and store in the refrigerator or buy pre chopped.
3. Prepare recipe through step 3 and store in refrigerator until ready to make the sauce.