I was looking for a dish to bring over to my friend, Melissa, who just had a baby. This recipe immediately popped out at me - one dish, easy to transport, easy to reheat, and lot's of veggies (plus cheese and pasta, of course). There's a reason people are always bringing casseroles! I also liked that it uses a lot of frozen veggies, making it budget friendly and easy to make year-round.
I also may have used it as an excuse to buy this thing, which I have been wanting for a long time - so cute!
So, we start out with ALL THE VEGETABLES. Ever. Just kidding... kind of. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil, then add frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. When those have thawed, add in shredded carrot and zucchini.
I saw this and thought to myself, "not enough vegetables," so I added some frozen peas to the boiling pasta for the last 30 seconds. You can use whatever shape of pasta you like, I thought bowties would be fun and cute. I used Barilla protein plus pasta, because it boasts 17g of protein per 3.5oz serving and veggie dishes can always use some extra protein. I also rinsed the pasta (and peas) in cold water to stop the cooking and get rid of the extra starch (something I only do for pasta salads, and pasta that is going to be cooked again in the oven).
Nest up is the sauce, which is not actually an Alfredo, but a bechamel made with butter, flour, milk, seasonings, and Parmesan. Toss everything together, top with smoked mozzarella, and bake for half an hour.
I wish I had a better plated photo for you, but while I was running the other casserole over to Melissa, my husband ate the entire middle out of ours - ha! He said he didn't like the crispier edge pieces, but that's okay - more for me! He also said that this was a good way to get him to eat vegetables - success! I thought this had a ton of flavor - savory from the onions and garlic, sweet from the peas, smoky from the cheese - good stuff. We had it the first night as a main with a salad, and the leftovers as a side with chicken.
Vegetable Alfredo Pasta
adapted from Budget Bytes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, shredded
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1/2 lb frozen broccoli & cauliflower pieces
1/4 lb frozen chopped spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb pasta (bowties, elbow, shells, etc.)
1 cup frozen peas
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups 2% (or whole) milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly cracked pepper
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella (or gouda)
optional - fresh herbs (basil, parsley, etc...)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a casserole dish with olive oil.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and heat for an additional minute. Add the frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach to the skillet. Continue to saute until the frozen vegetables are warmed through. Add the carrots and zucchini to the skillet and saute for one to two minutes more; season lightly with salt and pepper; set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente. Add in the frozen peas for the last 30 seconds. Drain the pasta and peas in a colander and rinse with cold water.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Allow the flour and butter mixture to cook for a few minutes, until the floury smell is gone, but the mixture has not browned.
Whisk the milk into the butter and flour mixture a little at a time, fully incorporating and smoothing before adding more. Stir in the nutmeg, garlic powder, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. Allow the milk mixture to come up to a simmer, making sure to whisk frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom. When the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, turn the heat down to low and whisk in the Parmesan until melted. Remove from heat and toss with the pasta and vegetables.
Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish, sprinkle with the shredded smoked cheese, and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve hot. Top with fresh herbs, if desired.
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