Sincerely Carolina

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Because Sometimes a Casserole Just Works

by caroline

In case you didn't gather this from my post the other day, my mom is not exactly a cook. So, when I come to visit, she feels happy to have a personal "chef" under her roof. :D

But seeing as how it is just Dan and I (plus kitties) most of the time, I am used to cooking or baking for smaller parties. I am also keen on what dishes we both like, and I don't have to think about much more than that. So, when I come to visit my family, I always have to reassess and consider a few things, like:

1.) Deciding on a dish that will feed anywhere from 6 – 8 people.

2.) Everyone's individual likes and dislikes. (There are two teenage boys, and often my sister's picky fiance in the group … he hates mushrooms, salads with "stuff", peas, etc. Boo, hoo.)

3.) Can I make this a gluten-free dish and still please everyone?

Very often I come up with a plated dinner that makes everyone happy, like a stir-fry or fish entree with veggies and risotto. But sometimes it's fun to lean back on an old-favorite/crowd-pleaser — the casserole.

Now, let me start by saying this: My brother, Luke, has a favorite dish of mine that we have dubbed the Mexican Lasagna. It's pretty much exactly the way it sounds — gluten-free lasagna noodles with black beans, corn and spicy ricotta, and smothered in chili powder and Mexican cheese. It's like a tortilla and a lasagna had a baby!

So, when it came time to decide dinner last night, I wanted to make this for him, but realized we didn't have any gluten-free lasagna noodles on hand. But, alas, I do not give in that easily! I put the noodle to work (Ha! Pun completely intended.) and thought, "Why not make this lasagna into a casserole, using gluten-free noodles instead?"

Ding!

I used all of the typical ingredients that I use in my Mexican Lasagna with a simple swap of the noodles. Here's how I worked it out:

Chees-a-licious Mexican Casserole(

(Print me!)

  • 28 oz. gluten-free pasta noodles, like rotini, penne or macaroni
  • 24 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2-1/2 cups Mexican cheese
  • 4 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup mild to medium salsa
  • 1 15.5 oz can black beans
  • 1/2 lb. (8 oz.) frozen corn

NOTES: I used Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Brown Rice Elbows with Golden Milled Flaxseed, Lundberg Rotini Brown Rice Pasta and half of a bag of Tinkyada brown rice shells. I also used Kraft Shredded Mexican Style Four Cheese.

 

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. Cook until al dente because the pasta will continue to cook when baked. Drain and transfer all pasta to a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

2.) In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, 1 cup of shredded cheese, 2 Tablespoons of chili powder and 1 egg until combined. Stir ricotta mixture into noodles.

3.) In a separate bowl, combine sauce, salsa, beans corn and 1-1/2 Tablespoons of chili powder. Stir sauce mixture into noodles.

4.) Top casserole with remaining 1-1/2 cups of cheese and 1-1/2 Tablespoons of chili powder.

5.) Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese begins to brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

No doubt about it — this casserole is chees-y ridiculous and worth every bite! I was sure to set off the decadence of the casserole with a side of roasted veggies: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, zucchini and onion topped with salt, pepper and Spike Vegit Magic seasoning. I love when some of the Brussels sprouts' leaves get crispy — delicious!

Note: This recipe is gluten-free. (If you have allergies or food sensitivities, always check specific manufacturer’s products for allergens and/or cross-contamination issues.)

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I have a super-tasty gluten-free, vegan dessert recipe coming up for you later. I'm completely smitten and I think you will be, too!