Meatless Monday: Baked Penne With Roasted Vegetables

Eat more vegetables by adding roasted zucchini, peppers, onions and mushrooms to cheesy baked penne.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

So you don't eat meat on Mondays. Or maybe you don't eat meat ever. But tell the truth on this one -- does eating less meat mean you eat more vegetables? Or do you subscribe to the pizza-and-beer-are-vegetarian philosophy? They are meatless after all, but mom was right about vegetables. You need to eat more of them.

Eating more vegetables shouldn't be too hard; eat a salad with dinner, snack on crudite, or ask for a side of broccoli instead of fries. But eating more vegetables doesn't mean that you now have to snack like a rabbit. You can easily add vegetables to the food you like anyway -- pizza, lasagna, sandwiches -- so you get a filling, comforting meal, plus all the good stuff that comes from vegetables, like vitamins and fiber and all that.

Giada's Baked Penne With Roasted Vegetables is a very veg-ified version of baked ziti; even mom would be impressed with the amount of vegetables loaded into this casserole. But the vegetables add more than just nutrients; the onions, peppers, zucchini and mushrooms are oven-roasted so they develop a deep flavor. And instead of plain old mozzarella, Giada uses a sharp-smoky combination of fontina and smoked mozzarella, which pairs unbelievably well with the roasted vegetables.

To save time you can use store-bought tomato sauce to make this dish. You can also make it a day ahead and bake it when you're ready for a meatless, veggie-loaded meal.

Serves: 6
2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Don't stop with baked penne. Try 20 more full-of-vegetables vegetarian pasta recipes.

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