In January, I resolved to get back into the swing of steady meal planning. I’ve made good on that promise, mostly. For the first time in a long time, my Sundays are filled with the rhythms of batch cooking. At any given moment, there are a couple of pots of beans and grains soaking or boiling, a few sweet potatoes baking in the oven, and maybe a pot of soup simmering on the stovetop. It feels nice. It feels like coming home.
But then there are those Sundays when a craving hits for traditional, hearty comfort food: a casserole or a winter stew or a cassoulet. Something like that.
The problem is that my enthusiasm for longer cooking projects is a little low these days. I’ve had things on my mind that push cooking to the back burner, or at least limit the energy I can devote to it. Fortunately, I’m realizing that there are many strategies for creating fulsome, hearty dishes without spending hours in the kitchen. This easy vegan pizza pasta bake is proof.
Strategy 1: Prep. This recipe uses a couple of my homemade staples, including my all-purpose cashew cream and my tofu feta. So the recipe is technically a couple of recipes, folded together. But if you make the simple ones a day or two in advance, it comes together super quickly when it’s time to bake. (And store-bought staples can fill in if you don’t have time to prep your own.)
Strategy 2: Make it semi-homemade. I could have used my homemade, stress-free marinara sauce in the recipe, but lately I’ve been enjoying the convenience of using store-bought. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we all have different quirks and preferences when it comes DIY-ing. There’s a lot to be said for figuring out which homemade staples feel like a pleasure to make, versus those you’d rather let the pros handle. I often find that just one or two store-bought ingredients makes the whole process of a seemingly “fancy” dish so much easier; in this recipe, it’s the marinara and the vegan parm (I heart the Go Veggie brand).
Strategy 3: Frozen veggies. I love using seasonal produce in my cooking, and when a single vegetable is featured in the dish, I’ll almost always opt for fresh. But frozen veggies can be a lifesaver when you need to feature a mix of produce in a single dish, if only because they save you a lot of chopping/prep time. I also find that it makes sense to use a frozen blend in pastas and casseroles—they’re just so easy to heat up and fold in. I used a bag with broccoli, onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, and green beans in this recipe. If you’d like to use your own mix of fresh and seasonal veggies, awesome.
Strategy 4: Use efficient cookware. Using a multipurpose pot or cooking vessel—something that can move easily from stovetop to oven, from boiling to baking, and so on—can help to save the mess of multiple dirty dishes. I also love using healthy nonstick cookware for the speedy cleanup!
My cooking vessel for this recipe met all of those criteria. It was the lovely Lagostina Nera hard adonized 5-quart casserole.
The Lagostina brand was founded in Italy over 100 years ago. It’s been a leader in high performance cookware ever since, and the new Nera line of cookware is their most innovative to date. The 5-qt casserole features premium hard anodized construction with thick, 3.5mm base for even heat distribution, non-stick coating for easy cooking and cleaning, sturdy stainless steel handles (and a lovely, hammered stainless steel lid), and flared edges for easy pouring.
The casserole is also dishwasher safe, oven/broiler safe, and comes with a lifetime warranty. Quite a piece of cookware—and I love the stylish look. It’s a treat to work with cookware that’s versatile and attractive enough to easily transition from cooking to serving; when I made this bake, I used the casserole to simmer my veggies, mix all of the ingredients, cook, and serve.
Lagostina is all about preserving the traditions and culture around food, and they invited me to share a regional, family recipe created with the Nera casserole. I got to thinking about what recipe might seem to capture the essence of NYC, and of course my mind went to pizza, which is probably the city’s most iconic food. Dearly though I love pizza, I wasn’t exactly in the mood to make crust, and a hearty, one-pot pasta casserole sounded perfect for the still-chilly weather.
I decided to channel the flavors of pizza—herbs, marinara, cheese—into a pasta casserole. And this feels even more like a family recipe because pasta bakes were my mother’s specialty comfort food when I was growing up. We didn’t eat a lot of elaborate, oven-baked dishes at home, but there’s something about baked pasta that gave my mom a lot of pleasure to make (and me a lot of pleasure to eat).
It feels nice to put a vegan spin on a dish that spelled comfort to me all those years ago, and still does today. I’m so excited to keep this recipe on hand as an easy, crowd-pleasing option for sharing with family and friends.
In spite of being the kind of dish you can confidently share with company, the bake is so low-maintenance. It’s also easy to customize for whomever you’re sharing with. Gluten free or whole grain pasta works perfectly, and you can replace the cashew cream with a non-dairy creamer if you need to accommodate a nut allergy. The dish is naturally oil free, depending on the type of marinara you use, and tofu feta can be replaced by a commercial vegan cheese.
When I make a meal like this, I think about how much my eating has changed since the days when I made virtually everything by scratch, eschewed packages as much as possible, and got leery of anything “processed” (a relative term, I realize now). It’s hard to imagine having the resources to spend as much time in the kitchen as I used to. But I’m glad that my style has evolved, because it has allowed me to keep cooking for myself, week in and week out. Whether I’m cooking fast or slow, that’s what really matters.
You can find the Lagostina Nera casserole—along with the entire Nera cooking line—for sale at Macy’s. And if you’d like to create a regional, family-inspired dish of your own using this lovely and durable piece of cookware, good news: the folks at Lagostina are sharing one complimentary Nera casserole with a Full Helping reader! The giveaway will run for two weeks, and it’s open to US and Canadian readers. Enter below to win (and if you do, I hope to hear about what you create with it).
Hope you’ll enjoy this little homage to New York, family, and food—and perhaps someone you love will enjoy it with you. I’ll see you soon for another weekly roundup!
This post was sponsored by Lagostina USA, and I received a complimentary Nera casserole in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. Thanks for your support!
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This looks so good for those days that we just need to INDULGE in something comforting!
We loved this – and by “we” I mean both me and my non-vegan husband! I made a few tweaks to our casserole tonight: roasted my veggies (no oil), eliminated the feta (no vegan cheese either), tossed in some nutritional yeast, and just because I love it I threw in some fresh garlic. Had some cherry tomatoes that needed to be used, so they went in too. It was GREAT! I love playing with food. And eating it!
Hooray! So glad you enjoyed.
This pan would be great for making seafood jambalaya.
I would make Chicken Cacciatore
I’d love to make a delicious frittata for easter breakfast in the Nera casserole!
I’d like to make Chicken Cacciatore
I’m excited to make a veggie and shrimp pasta dish.
I’d love to make eggplant parmesan!
I’d love to make a vegetable casserole!
I’m excited to my my curried turkey and chick pea casserole!
I would start out with Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic.
I would like to make a big pot of goulash
I’d love to make this EASY VEGAN PIZZA PASTA BAKE recipe! It looks and sounds so delicious and it’s so healthy! Thank you for sharing 🙂
I would make this recipe in the blog as I’m making it now and think this cooking vessel would be a better fit. Vegan pizza bake
I would make a chicken and rice casserole.
i love pasta bakes! 🙂
I would make a nice hearty beef stew.
This looks absolutely awesome, can’t wait to try!
This gorgeous pan would be perfect for making braised chicken thighs in tomato sauce with vegetables, a favorite comfort food in our house.
Fettuccine alfredo would be first then I will need to do some searching for new recipes
I can’t wait to make Chana Masala in this dish!
Oh I would love to make my chicken penne pasta!
I love a good pasta bake! I would have to make this pizza pasta in that beautiful pan.
I would make a cheesy broccoli casserole.
This would be perfect for my Taco Bake!
Beautiful! Must try this recipe. That parmesan is always a perfect topper. We’ve been using tuna in our pasta recently, really nice.
I want to make 7 bean casserole
I would make one of my husband’s latest favorites: one pot caramelized onion pasta!
I would make chicken and brocolli casserole!
Wow, I might try my Mom’s Chicken Bake Casserole. That’s chicken & stuffing & gravy, basically.
I’m excited to make some paella!
I am very excited to make a cheesy chicken and rice casserole in this pot!
I am excited to make my shrimp scampi recipe in this.
I would try making this recipe or make a vegan lasagna. Thank you for the giveaway!
I would like to make a cheesy baked ziti.
I would make a layered Mexican lasagna/enchilada bake!
I would like to make a chicken and vegetable casserole.
I’d love to make a frittata in this.
I’m excited to try THIS dish in the pan! I love
the comfort and convenience of casseroles.
I would also make a pasta bake!
i want to make farinata with lots of sauteed onion and asparagus seasoned with toasted rosemary, mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric, pepper, umeboshi vinegar and olive oil… YUM!
A fabulous recipe created in a beautiful and thoughtful casserole. I can only imagine what all I’d whip up in this lovely piece of cookware. I’m SO intrigued with your tofu feta, Gena. You always inspire me… each and every time. Thank you xo
I would make cajun chicken pasta
Umm, I’m excited to make this recipe for sure! Looks amazing 🙂
I’d probably try this pasta bake…it sounds delicious! Next I’d try a lentil enchilada casserole.
Your recipe looks delish! I would definitely try this! Thanks for the giveaway!
I would love to make your pasta bake. Looks so good! Or maybe a vegan potpie. Yum!
this looks so good. Thanks for the recipe, dinner is served
I would like to make my Mexican Surprise in this casserole.
I would make a Chicken tortilla casserole.
HI Gena–this looks great–and what absolutely beautiful cookware too!!! xoxo
cheesy broccoli casserole as one has said i love this and thats what id make
I’m excited to try a roasted vegtable gnocchi with spinach herb pesto.
I would love to make a wild mushroom risotto in this casserole!
This pizza casserole looks ahhhmazing. I’m hoping to be able to schedule time in this weekend to make it.
Gena, this looks amazing! I’ve put in on my list to definitely make ASAP!! Thank you for the great recipe! Also, I love the new layout of your web-site!
My hubby grew up eating Italian/American and the dishes he talks about fondly are his Moms baked pasta ones. With your recipe in hand, I’m going to give it a go! Thanks for the inspiration!
Would love this to make some Chicken & Dumplings.
Ooh I’d definitely try this pasta bake!
wow! Pizza pasta bake?!?!
I can’t wait to try this!!!
Izzy | Pinch of delight
I love casserole dishes, so easy and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day, and to freeze for those nights I don’t feel like cooking but want something homemade. I’ll be making this one!
This looks super comforting! Yum!!
I would make a cheesy broccoli casserole.
One final risotto before the heat settles in. Thanks for the introduction to this gorgeous pan — CHEERS!
That looks amazing. I love a good pasta and I’ve been on the lookout for vegan parmesan but it’s hard to find here (in the Netherlands) I’m not vegan but just recently changed to vegetarian but want to limit especially cheese and maybe go vegan going forward. Still getting used to things so glad I discovered your site!
Oh my goodness! That looks so good! Definitely gonna try this soon! 😀
I love pasta bakes and chowder. Let’s just plan on me making both!!
This looks so hearty, cozy, and filling! Plus, I learned a new word in this post – fulsome. 😀