Here are some of our favorite meatless recipes for Lent. Not everyone on my family likes every recipe, but with 7 kids, you can't please all of them every day, so they are free to have something else for dinner.

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in orzo and saute until lightly browned.
Stir in cream and bring to boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 – 20 minutes.
Mix in Parmesan cheese and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to shallow bowl. Garnish with basil sprigs.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (16 ounce) package elbow macaroni
9 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain well and return to cooking pot.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 8 tablespoons butter; stir into the macaroni.
In a large bowl, combine the Mozzarella cheese, mild and sharp Cheddar cheeses, and Monterey Jack cheese; mix well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Add the half and half and 1 1/2 cups of cheese mixture to macaroni; mix together and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a lightly greased deep 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese mixture and 1 tablespoon of butter.
Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes or until hot and bubbling around the edges; serve.

Minestrone Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, sliced
2 cups water
115 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can green beans
2 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
2 squash, quartered and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup seashell pasta
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add water and tomatoes, bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, zucchini, squash, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside.
Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Spray with olive oil and serve.

Greek Pasta with Tomatoes and White Beans

2 (14.5 ounce) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 (19 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and chopped
8 ounces penne pasta
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, combine tomatoes and beans in a large non-stick skillet. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.
Add spinach to the sauce; cook for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly.
Serve sauce over pasta, and sprinkle with feta.

Pesto Pizza

1 (12 inch) pre-baked pizza crust
1/2 cup pesto
1 ripe tomato, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 (2 ounce) can chopped black olives, drained
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Spread pesto on pizza crust. Top with tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, red onions, artichoke hearts and feta cheese.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned.

Lentil Soup

1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups dry lentils
8 cups water
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and basil; cook for 2 minutes.
Stir in lentils, and add water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Eggplant Parmesan

3 eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
6 cups spaghetti sauce, divided
1 (16 ounce) package mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes on each side.
In a 9×13 inch baking dish spread spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with the cheeses. Sprinkle basil on top.
Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Black Bean Burritos

8 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
4 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno peppers
1 package softened cream cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven heated to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through.
Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Place onion, bell pepper, garlic and jalapenos in skillet, cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Pour beans into skillet, cook 3 minutes stirring.
Cut cream cheese into cubes and add to skillet with salt. Cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir cilantro into mixture.
Spoon mixture evenly down center of warmed tortilla and roll tortillas up. Serve immediately.

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