Each week, I’ll present a low-cost meal (or a meal that demonstrates a lot of options for cutting costs) that my family eats for dinner and enjoys. Many of the recipes will be vegan or vegetarian, with options to add other ingredients for non-vegetarians.
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.
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)…
… and when I added the beans and tomatoes, it looked like this…
Cook for another three minutes until the penne is done, then serve. I made myself a bowl of this mix…
… 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.
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.
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.