When you don’t feel like assembling a whole lasagna, or change your mind at the last minute – this is a very tasty and healthy vegetarian pasta bake. For us, it feels a bit ‘festive’ each time we make it; as if we’re treating ourselves.
1.5 bags brown rice pasta (spirals or penne; Tinkyada is a good brand)
1 small onion, cubed
2 red peppers, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced into small pieces
1 zuchini, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch spinach, washed and chopped into 1″ pieces
2+ cups vegetarian stock
Oregano, salt, pepper to taste
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2 cups of grated aged white cheddar
Quarter cup of grated parmesan
Pour olive oil into a large lidded frying pan, add all the vegetables (excepting spinach), and sauté until they begin to soften. Add the stock, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, on medium heat, about 10 minutes. Add spinach to wilt, stirring occasionally. Recover, and cook another 2-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Prepare the rice pasta as per the manufacturer’s description. (It makes sense to try one occasionally while it’s cooking – rice pasta should be ‘al dente’ and not too soft, and it turns too soft very quickly). When it’s cooked, drain and rinse well using hot tap water. Once the excess water has dripped off, add the pasta to the vegetables, and fold together so that the veggies are evenly distributed and the pasta is fully coated by the sauce. The key to this recipe is that the veggies aren’t dry; they need quite a lot of sauce. So if you’re thinking your veggie mix is too wet – it’s actually just right.
Rub or spray a very light coat of olive oil onto the inner surface of a large lasagna baking pan. Pour pasta & veggie mixture into it. Distribute cheddar evenly on top and then sprinkle with parmesan. Add salt and pepper if desired.
Briefly bake at 350°F (5 minutes at the most) until the cheese starts to melt. Then, briefly broil it (2-3 minutes) on high to brown the cheese slightly. Remove from oven and let cool down slightly before serving. Serves 4 very hungry people or 6 if you’re also serving a salad and dessert.