Ok. Let’s talk Meatless Monday! Etienne and I started this little weekly tradition a couple of years ago when I started doing a lot of research about plant-based diets and the benefits that come with more fruits and vegetables in your diet. I like to think I could do an entirely plant-based diet, but in reality, I would really miss meat. Etienne would REALLY miss meat. The thought of never having another perfectly grilled medium-rare steak again makes me want to curl into a little ball and rock back and forth. SO, in lieu of saying adios to meat completely and having someone find me in the fetal position in the corner, we started to implement a few meatless meals every week. Over the years it has evolved into one for sure meatless day a week, Meatless Monday!
If he’s been eating a lot of sweets or foods that aren’t the healthiest, it is inevitable that Etienne will ask for a vegetable casserole. It’s like his body is telling him exactly what he’s missing. I’ve experimented with a number of different vegetable combinations in a casserole, but this one is by far the preferred version. It’s made of ingredients that you almost always have in your fridge, and the cream sauce is so versatile that you can really throw any vegetable of your choice into the mix. I’ve used broccoli, onion, carrots and cauliflower here.
As for the pasta base, I really like to use 100% lentil pasta when I’m doing an all-veggie meal, so we’re getting a boost of protein and iron too; plus, the boys will eat lentil pasta with the same enthusiasm as regular wheat pasta. Win!
This casserole comes together in about 25 minutes, and then bakes in the oven for 35. You start by cooking the vegetables until tender-crisp while boiling the pasta. The noodles line the bottom of a casserole dish and then are topped with the cooked vegetables.
I like to use the same pan that I cooked the veggies in to prepare the cream sauce; composed of onions sautéed in butter, flour, milk and cream cheese. You can use full fat cream cheese but I use the light; I also use 1% milk but using 2% would certainly make it that much creamier.
Cover the veggies and pasta with the cream sauce and stir to coat. Top the casserole with some buttery, cheesy bread crumbs and pop it into the oven for about 35 minutes. I make my own fresh bread crumbs in the food processor with a couple pieces of whole wheat bread.
Right before serving, you can add additional parmesan cheese or even cheddar cheese on top of the casserole and broil it for a few minutes to add some extra melty deliciousness.
This creamy, warm dinner is so easy to whip together for a weeknight meal and you just have to feel good about all the veggies you’re putting into your body! Try it for your next Meatless Monday adventure. I promise, you won’t miss the meat!
Creamy Vegetable Casserole
Yield 3-4 servings
A dreamy, creamy vegetable casserole with a crispy, cheesy topping. The perfect Meatless Monday meal!
- 2 cups penne pasta
- 6-7 cups chopped mixed vegetables*
- 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
- 1.5 cups milk
- 8 oz light cream cheese, cubed
- 1.5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2-3 tbsp grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling on top
- Preheat oven to 350 F and butter a 9x13 casserole dish.
- Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta to al dente (6-7 minutes). Drain the pasta and place in the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Place the carrots and cauliflower in a large saucepan and cover with water; bring the water to a boil and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Drain the water and place the tender-crisp vegetables on top of the pasta in the casserole dish.
- Using the same pan that you used to cook the vegetables, melt the butter and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes or until soft. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until thickened. Add in the cream cheese and whisk until the cream cheese is completely melted and the sauce is spoon. Add in salt and pepper, to taste.
- Pour the sauce over the vegetable and pasta mix, and stir to coat.
- Mix the melted butter with the fresh breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and spread over the top of the casserole.
- Place in the oven for about 35 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, add remaining parmesan cheese and broil for 5 minutes. Serve.
* I used a mix of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower but you could substitute with large chunks of pepper, asparagus, or squash. Anything goes!
*If using frozen vegetables, thaw first and drain any excess liquid. Skip the pre-cooking step and place right into the casserole dish along with the pasta.