swiss chard pasta bake

The week of bribing people with food and drink continues… my dad is still working around the house (and he’s staying an extra week now – oh the projects I’m going to dream up right after I finish this post). The other night, Jack’s sister came by to help organize the pantry and closets… I’m on this kick where I want things in order (I’m not always this way), and I’m not above delegation to get things done.

So my part was to, of course, make dinner for everyone. My dad and Jack are easy, they are human vacuums for whatever I put in front of them. Beyond them, I never know what to make for meat eaters. I figured a cheesy pasta dish was foolproof. I have an overabundance of chard growing in my garden, so I was able to sneak some leafy greens in. And I don’t think anyone noticed that I used brown rice pasta.

I made this in two dishes – the one pictured is smaller and had less cheese (so I could partake), and the other dish was larger and had parmesan bubbling on top.

But I’m curious to know – if you’re vegetarian or cook mostly vegetarian, what do you like to make for your meat eating guests?

Or if you’re a meat eater, what are your favorite vegetarian dishes?

adapted from The New York Times Recipes for Health

INGREDIENTS:
12 oz. penne pasta (I used brown rice pasta, but you could use any kind)
2 cups tomato sauce, any kind you like or see recipe below
1 pound swiss chard (about 6 large leaves), stems removed
3/4 cup asiago cheese cut into small cubes (or any cheese you like, goat, fontina, mozzarella, daiya)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
shredded parmesan to go on top (optional)

simple tomato sauce:
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can tomato sauce (plain)
1/4 cup white or red wine
2 teaspoons sugar
salt & pepper
red pepper flakes (optional)

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Fill another bowl with ice and a bit of water. Drop chard leaves in boiling water for about 1 minute, remove and drop in ice water to stop the cooking process so your chard keeps its vibrant green color.

Re-using the same pot, cook pasta according to package directions, cutting the time a minute or two short since the pasta will continue cooking while it bakes.

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce (or use your own and skip this step). Over medium-high heat sauté onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add a few pinches of salt. Add garlic. When onions are translucent, add both cans of tomatoes, sugar and wine. Reduce heat. Simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more salt & pepper to taste (only if needed). Add red pepper flake, if using.

Remove chard from ice water, squeeze out excess water, and chop.

In a large bowl mix pasta, chard, cheese cubes and tomato sauce.

Pour the mixture in a 9×13 pan. Sprinkle shredded parmesan cheese on top (if you like), and/or a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Broil for the last 1-2 minutes if you would like the cheese topping more brown and bubbling. (note, if you’re not putting cheese on top, watch it more closely because it will dry out faster). Even without cheese on top, I prefer a bit of a crunchy crust. If you don’t cook it less.

Remove from oven, let cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.

29 comments

  1. Alex from acouplecooks.com on said:

    Looks great! A perfect way to fit in some chard, too. Our go-to meal for carnivorous guests is pizza. People soon forget their pepperoni ways when you make a gourmet-sounding pizza. :)

  2. Nico from nicostinykitchen.wordpress.com on said:

    It is funny that you bring up the question of feeding meat eaters because my boyfriend’s mom was just visiting and we had just that problem. Other than eating out more than usual, the two meals that she really enjoyed were homemade pizza and potato gnocchi with seasonal vegetables and toasted nuts. Pepperoni was easy enough to throw on her pizza, and even without the meat it would still go over well with most and the gnocchi went over well completely meatless.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      I’ve done the meat on the side thing for pizza’s, that’s a nice trick so everyone gets what they want… I’ll try gnocchi next time – at least they’ll be impressed by the effort :)

  3. This looks so great! I love cheesy pasta dishes that are balanced with veggies and red sauce. I only cook vegetarian meals, but fortunately, my friends are all down with veggies. My brother, on the other hand, is a meat and potatoes kind of guy so I’m not sure even my hearty vegan chili would satisfy him. He’s difficult!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      it’s those few hard core meat and potatoes people that get me too…

  4. Rebecca Strout on said:

    Just add bacon or sausage! They work well with all of the recipes you post.

  5. Looks delish. This actually IS my preferred method of cooking for all the omni’s in my life. Lots of pasta and cheese, strong seasonings, and nobody even notices the healthy veggies that snuck in. Then, after you’ve earned their trust, they will usually accept your more adventurous dishes.

  6. Pizza is a good one — we had a “make your own” party recently and when people heard mine (spinach, caramelized onions, black olives, garlic), they totally blew off the pepperoni. That wouldn’t work for a hardcore meat crowd though — so hearty veggie chili that isn’t obviously meatless, curries (Indian and Asian), hearty pastas, taco bars with tons of fun fillings (including refried beans, spicy rice, sour cream), etc.

    I think the more “fun” the meal is, and the more options/self serve, the less “trapped” your meat eater will feel. And also allows for easy, shame-free seconds since they can make their own, if they feel the need.

  7. Courtney Jones from thefigtree.blogspot.com on said:

    I’m having meat eaters over for dinner on Sunday and I’ve decided to make vegetarian enchiladas for dinner. Lots of beans + veggies with a side of homemade pico de gallo, guacamole and mexican brown rice. I also like to make Greek food for meat eating guests. I make vegetarian moussaka, greek salad and lemon potatoes. Always a hit :)

  8. Phyre on said:

    That looks absolutely delicious! Shame I just had dinner because I’m seriously craving pasta and cheese now, I guess I’ll just have to make this tomorrow.

    I’m a vegetarian myself and when I have meat-eaters over I’ll cook like I would for myself. I’m still hoping to change some of them away from their “big-heap-o’-meat and almost nothing else” diet. Luckily most of my dinner guests find the meatless meals a nice intermission from their usual cuisine. I do always make sure to prepare a balanced meal though, when I cook for myself I often go low on the carbs (especially during the week) but when I have guests over there’s always plenty complex carbs throughout the meal. Not everyone can live on light salads like I apparently can (can’t help it, 95% of the time what I crave is a light salad)!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      I eat just like you do, I could live on salads :)

  9. Eileen from hampiesandwiches.blogspot.com on said:

    Well, I *am* a meat eater, even if I don’t eat it all that often…but I would make this pasta bake just for myself! Total comfort food.

  10. Omnivore friends usually forget that they “need” meat when they come over — I rely on tasty beans, lentils, and whole grains to seduce them over to the dark side!

  11. Liz R. on said:

    How many servings would you estimate this recipe to be? Thanks! :)

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      I served 5, fairly large eaters. I had no appetizer or side dishes, so I would say this could stretch to 6 or 7 if you had a few smaller eaters and some other accompanying dishes.

  12. sarah from thevanillabeanblog.com on said:

    This looks lovely! I tried sneaking Swiss chard in my pasta the other night, but my littles wouldn’t go for it. We do eat meat, but are trying to eat it only twice a week, so I’ve been brainstorming some good, filling, vegetarian meals. Pasta always works, and pizza, too. Light soup and couscous are nice in the hotter months.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      I don’t have little ones so I’m used to having it easy! I make what I want and Jack eats whatever I make… I couldn’t imagine having little critics :)

  13. Bev Weidner from bevcooks.com on said:

    I am officially STARVING right before going to bed. Awesome.

    I WANT THIS.

  14. Ulrike on said:

    The dish looks lovely and although I could not do it in my family with swiss chard, I am doing a quite similar dish with spinach! With swiss chard, my winning recipe is “green pancakes”. You need about 1 1/2 pounds swiss chard, 4 large eggs, whole weat flour, fresh herbs if available, shallots or spring onions, salt and pepper. I mix the raw chard cut into pieces, the shallots or oninons and the eggs (and herbs) until everything is pureed and then add flour until there is a thick dough who is dolloping slowly from a spoon. Season with pepper and salt and bake in pan to small thick pancakes. I serve these with a dip from yogurt (and/or sour cream) with fresh herbs and a salad.
    My family (more the meat eaters!) love this dish on warm summer evenings.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      That sounds delicious – and I have tons of swiss chard growing, I’ll have to try that next time. Thanks!

  15. Andrea on said:

    Gnocchi with roast butternut squash and a lemon-sage butter always goes down well. It’s surprising how many of them haven’t had gnocchi before.

  16. Sarah from sarahillustrator.blogspot.co.uk on said:

    It’s interesting this meat vs. veggie thing. My husband is a veggie. I am not. We are bringing up our little boy of 16 months like me. 95% veggie i guess. i think my husband always says he prefers his meals that are vegetarian because they are great and happen to not contain any meat, or any meat substitute – fake meat products. so when we cook for meat eaters we just make great food, we don’t cook a meal that should contain meat but we’ve swapped it for something else…does that make sense?! anyway i love your blog. i’ve used it a lot recently, not only are your photos lovely but your recipes are fantastic. Have you heard of the chef Ottolenghi? He has restaurants here in the UK and a lovely book called Plenty which lets vegetables be the star of the show even though he is not a veggie. I think you’d like it – lots of good chard recipes and amazing salads!!!
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plenty-Yotam-Ottolenghi/dp/0091933684

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Sarah, yes, I love Plenty, it’s one of my favorite cookbooks! I can’t wait to come back to London and go to his restaurants…

      I love it when I have friends over that are happy and willing to try new veggie dishes… not everyone is always so flexible. I think what I’ve learned is that for the hard core meat and potatoes people (the ones that won’t touch a vegetable), we should just go meet at a restaurant :)

  17. Anne from tunatoast.com on said:

    I do eat meat, but not very often, especially at home. I like to make stuffed mushrooms for meat-eating guests. I dice up the mushroom stems and whatever else I scooped out and saute with onion, garlic, thyme, spinach and a touch of white wine. Then I’ll mix it in a bowl with some panko and a touch of good, grated raw sheep’s milk cheese, pack the mixture into each seasoned mushroom cap and bake. It’s really hearty and no one really misses the meat. It’s also a good way to sneak pretty much any leafy green or veggie if it’s chopped up.

    Pasta bakes are good too. Lately I’ve been pretty happy with quinoa pasta. Yours looks delicious!!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Thanks! I really like quinoa pasta too…

  18. Greer on said:

    My boyfriend is vegetarian, I’m not but rarely miss the meat. My favourite meal for when we have meat eaters for dinner is this chickpea and cashew curry: http://www.tastemag.co.za/Recipe-1177/Chickpea-and-cashew-curry.aspx It always goes down a treat! Alternatively, I’ll make whatever we would eat anyway and supplement it with a separate roast chicken – pleases almost everyone!

  19. veronica on said:

    i’m eating this right now and i just have to say this is AMAZING! i used goat cheese and used that tomato sauce recipe (who needs store bought sauce with a great and easy recipe like this?). fabulous! will definitely be making this again

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