Meat Free Italian Pasta Bake

The best thing about casseroles is the leftovers. Typically, I have a big salad made up for a lunch base during the week, but now and then I get bored with that and want something else to easy to make, take and pair with other foods for lunch. This meat-free Italian pasta bake checks all the right boxes.

Inspired by the Dairy Alliance recipe, I have tweaked the original to add a little extra flavor (and cheese, ha).

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No fuss ingredient list:

  • 3-4 cups of cooked pasta

  • 1 jar of pasta sauce (or use homemade)

  • 1 small bag of shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

  • 1 container of fresh sliced mushrooms

  • 1 yellow squash

  • 1 zucchini

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Use your family’s favorite pasta brand or style, or give Barilla’s protein plus pasta a try. I am not being paid in any way to share their product. I like it because it boosts the protein content of a pasta dish without having to add anything to do it. It helps keep lunch light or dinner uncomplicated. When you look in the ingredients, you’ll find that the protein punch is coming first from plants in the form of lentils and chickpeas, followed by some egg whites.

Go ahead and get your pasta cooking per directions. You will need 3-4 cups of cooked pasta, regardless the kind you choose.

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Wash and slice your squash. Add cut vegetables and sliced mushrooms to a 9x13 pan and season with one tablespoon of Italian seasoning — no need to salt.

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Add in cooked pasta. Start with 3 cups of cooked pasta and gauge if you need that 4th cup or not. This recipe isn't rocket science.

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Can you guess what comes next?

The pasta sauce.

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Last, but not least, add the cheese!

I am not afraid of cheese, so the whole bag goes on. You can get 5-8 servings out of this casserole which would be a serving of cheese. But if you're looking to cut back on calories, cut down on the cheese.

Pop this baby in an oven set at 350F for 25-30 minutes until bubbly, and the vegetables have softened.

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Ain’t it pretty!

This meat-free Italian pasta bake can be a complete meal without pairing it with anything. You get enough protein from the pasta, which also gives you a complex carbohydrate. It is packed full of vegetables, and you get the dairy and fat from the cheese. But, at smaller portion size, you can also pair this casserole with a lean protein, fish, or seafood.

Rebecca Turner