Dinner With My Family #16: Penne with Cannelini and Tomatoes

Homemade Pasta: Penne with Cannelini and Tomatoes

One common thing I like to do on weekdays when I don’t have enough leftovers for lunch is to prepare something that will make a casserole dinner for my family that I can easily pull a lunch’s worth of food from for myself right then. I prefer meals of this type that are simple to make so that I don’t invest a lot of time in it, either.

This dish, which I actually prepared today for lunch and intend to have for dinner with the family on either Saturday or Monday evening, is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I made a healthy bowl of this for myself and also filled up a casserole for baking for my family’s dinner in a few nights.

It’s hearty, delicious, cheap, and incredibly simple.

What You Need

For the amount I made, which makes enough for a three quart casserole and an extra meal, you’ll need:

16 oz. dried penne pasta – it looks like little tubes
4 cups vegetable stock – we make our own, but you can buy it if you want or you can substitute water and sacrifice some significant flavor
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 cans cooked cannelini beans – or 1 1/2 cups dried beans, cooked
A small amount of fresh or dried basil and oregano

I also used some mozzarella cheese – about two cups, shredded – for the casserole.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

There’s nothing to do in advance preparation for this dish. It’s really easy.

Preparing the Meal

Get out a large pot. Add the stock to the pot, then add the dried penne.

Penne in stock

Let the penne cook according to the package directions. Three minutes before the penne is finished, add the tomatoes, the basil and oregano, and the beans. In my case, I had this (which had boiled up a bit)…

Penne looks good

… and when I added the beans and tomatoes, it looked like this…

Nearly done!

Cook for another three minutes until the penne is done, then serve. I made myself a bowl of this mix…

Bowl of goodness

… and then I put the rest into a small casserole for later serving. As a top layer on the casserole, I added two cups of shredded mozzarella and a few dashes of dried basil and oregano.

Casserole before baking

When I’m ready to bake, I’ll allow it to adjust to room temperature for an hour or so, then I’ll bake it at 350 F for about thirty minutes, with the lid on for all but the last ten minutes or so. The longer you leave the lid on, the more moist the meal will be.

Optional Ingredients

You can all sorts of things to the mix. A sliced Italian sausage would be good, as would chicken, if you’re looking for protein. Other options include sliced button mushrooms or sliced (or even whole) olives, as well as a bit of olive oil. Add the things you like and you’re sure to be happy.

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  1. Sonja says:

    I always look forward to these meal posts. Although I generally like my food spicier than Trent (I’m not feeding little kids, though) these recipes are always a place for me to try something a little different. Loved the breakfast burritos/tofu scramble last week with the addition of hot peppers. Thanks for the recipes.

  2. Leah W. says:

    Can you find reasonably priced cherry tomatoes? I cannot.

  3. valleycat1 says:

    We do all kinds of dishes with pasta – a good way to clean out the fridge or pantry!

    #2 Leah – It’s a little early in the season for fresh tomatoes to be at their best price (or taste). My tomato plants here in the sunny central valley of California have just set their first few. I’m also a little cautious about cherry or plum tomatoes right now, what with the recent recalls. Instead of fresh tomatoes I often use a good brand of no-salt-added organic canned tomatoes or our favorite tomato sauce (this year we’ll be able to make some homemade once the tomato plants take off!). This would also be tasty without any kind of tomatoes.

    We’ve found we prefer a generous amount of basil & oregano instead of just a pinch. If using canned tomato product, a half teaspoon of sugar helps too.

  4. Jane says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I love white beans and pasta together. We’ll have to try this. This is pretty much a traditional pasta e fagioli recipe, only I’ve always heard you just use highly salted water to boil your pasta in. Then you throw a bit of the starchy pasta water in with the beans at the end to thicken it up. But the idea of broth sounds like it would give it even more flavor.

  5. Larabara says:

    Leah@#2, cherry tomatoes are one of the easiest garden plants to grow. If you have a green or even green-ish thumb, and somewhere to grow tomatoes (they are great in containers, too), you can grow your own. I plant cherry tomatoes every year, and when they ripen I am inundated with them. They are sweeter than anything I ever bought at the store. I share what I can, and freeze a ton of them as well, for recipes and sauces in the wintertime.

  6. Sue says:

    I’d increase the nutritional value by adding a whack of spinach or kale.

  7. Lesley says:

    We do this all the time for pasta and leftovers–it freezes very well too. I always load mine with vegetables–spinach, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc. (Fresh summer squash will make the casserole too watery though.) Sometimes we’ll throw in a little pasta sauce (esp. if we plan to freeze)–just half a can.

  8. Vickie says:

    Thanks for another great meal idea. ☺

  9. Mel says:

    @Leah – I second that cherry tomatoes are really easy to grow. I had some growing on the windowsill, and they looked amazing! One lesson I learned the hard way: Ensure the pot is secured in some way. Let’s just say that I’m extremely glad there was no-one walking under the window when it slammed shut!

    Still, I bandaged up the one plant (of about 5) that survived the fall, and got a couple of very yummy tomatoes from it.

  10. deRuiter says:

    Bet this would be even tastier if you sauteed some diced onions in olive oil until they are deep golden brown /caramelized and the stirred them into the mix when you added the beans and tomatoes.

  11. Carol Cripps says:

    I love this idea for a meal. Like some of the others who’ve commented, I’d add other vegetables according to availability – kale and mushrooms especially, and definitely some onions and garlic, which I always have on hand.

    I agree with those who’ve said that cherry tomatoes are easy to grow. I’ve started several plants, some of which will be planted in a balcony container, the rest going to my sister’s house. Even regular tomatoes are easy to grow in containers – We’re trying heirloom tomatoes this year. You can grow an amazing amount of food on your balcony! I’m sure that many of the tomatoes are going to end up in casseroles like the one Trent just posted. The rest *might* make it as far as a salad bowl, but probably just eaten off the vine.

  12. Emma says:

    What an interesting idea! I always make a casserole for the day-of and freeze the extra, but I never thought of doing it the other way around (eating the extra and freezing the casserole). Thanks for the idea!

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