It’s nice to have a meatless dinner sometimes, but many times it’s not the taste we’re looking for. Here are some dishes that combine vegetables, mushrooms and pasta to give a comfort food taste.

It’s nice to have a meatless dinner sometimes, but many times it’s not the taste we’re looking for. Here are some dishes that combine vegetables, mushrooms and pasta to give a comfort food taste.

If you haven’t tried Portobello mushrooms yet, here is a recipe that will interest you. It’s easy to make and is quite tasty. The mushrooms are a great substitute for meat and can even be used in place of hamburgers when grilled.

The tilapia, shrimp, and clam dishes add a fish and seafood touch to meatless meals and are light and refreshing meals, with minimal preparation.


Baked Bowties with Broccoli and Cheese

12      ounces bowtie pasta

1        12-ounce bag of broccoli florets, or one small head of broccoli cut into florets

1        tablespoon butter

1        small sweet onion, chopped

1        8-ounce package mushrooms, sliced

4        cups whole milk

4        tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

1        5-ounce bag baby spinach

5        ounces mild Provolone or Gruyere cheese, grated about 1 ¼ (one and one fourth)                             cups

1/3 (one third) cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus 2-tablespoons

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Set aside.

Cook the bowties according to package directions, adding broccoli florets during the last 3 minutes f cooking; drain and return the broccoli and pasta to the empty pot.

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, salt and pepper. Pour into skillet and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes, stir in spinach. Remove from heat and stir in 1-cup of the mild Provolone or Gruyere cheese and 1/3 (one third) cup Parmesan cheese.

Pour cooked sauce into pot with pasta and broccoli and mix to coat. Transfer mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining mild Provolone or Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.

Bake until the cheese melts and is beginning to brown about 8-10 minutes.  Serve hot.

Shrimp Scampi

1 ½ (one an one half) pounds large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

Pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper

1        tablespoon EVOO, olive oil

2        cloves garlic, mince then smashed

¾ (three fourths) cup dry white wine

2        tablespoons lemon juice

2        tablespoons butter

2        tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, or 1-tablespoon dried parsley flakes

½ (one half) teaspoon dried sweet basil, crushed

3        cups cooked angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti

Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

Sprinkle shrimp with a pinch of sat. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook for 3-5 minutes until pink just turn pink, do not overcook. Using a slotted spoon, remove shrimp from pan. Add garlic to pan. Cook for about 3 minutes or until a golden brown. Add dry white wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, butter, and a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.

In a large serving bowl, combine shrimp, parsley, basil, pasta, and wine mixture. Serve immediately. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Pasta Salad

1        8-ounce package refrigerated cheese tortellini or tricolor

2        cups sugar snap peas, trimmed or 1-cup frozen green peas, thawed

1        sweet red or yellow bell pepper, cut into strips then into ½ (one half) inch pieces

1        cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

½ (one half) cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3        tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2        teaspoons dried sweet basil, crushed

2        tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

1        tablespoon granulated sugar

½ (one half) teaspoon dried oregano

2        garlic cloves, minced

Pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Place tortellini into a large pot of boiling water. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sugar snap peas or green peas and cook for 3 minutes or until tender but still crisp.

In a bowl whisk together vinegar, basil, olive oil, sugar, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.

Drain pasta and peas; rinse with cold water. Drain. Place into a large bowl and toss with balsamic dressing. Gently fold in halved tomatoes and pepper pieces. Garnish with sweet basil and Parmesan cheese. May be refrigerated before serving, if desired.

Cauliflower and Broccoli with Penne and Breadcrumbs

Serves 4

8        ounces penne pasta

1        small cauliflower head, cut into florets

2        tablespoons butter

1 1//2 (one and one half) cups flavored breadcrumbs

1        cup broccoli florets

1        cup heavy cream or half-and-half

¾ (three fourths) cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Boil penne in salted water for 5 minutes. Add cauliflower and broccoli and cook until vegetables and pasta are tender, but firm about 5-6 minutes. Drain, reserving 1-cup cooking liquid. Return pasta and vegetables to pot.

In a large skill over medium heat melt butter. Add breadcrumbs and sauté stirring until golden brown, 6- 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

To the pasta add cream and Parmesan cheese, and ½ (one half) cup cooking liquid. Toss over medium-low heat until sauce simmers, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Serves 4

12      ounces linguine or thin spaghetti

3        tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

1        medium sweet onion, finely chopped

3        garlic cloves, chopped

¾ (three fourths) cup dry white wine

2        pounds small clams, like Littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed

3        tablespoons butter

¼ (one fourth) cup fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta 1-minute less than package directions. While pasta is cooking, in a Dutch oven or heavy large pot with a lid heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook until onion is soft, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes

Add white wine and bring to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally until reduced by half about 2-3 minutes.

Add clams, cover and simmer, shaking pot occasionally until clams open wide about 3-5 minutes. Discard any clams that haven’t opened after 5 minutes.

Add pasta to clam mixture in pot and continue to cook until pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and parsley. Add some reserved pasta water to tin sauce if desired, season with salt to taste.

Tilapia Milanese

Serves 4

4        6-ounce tilapia fillets

1        cup milk

1        cup all-purpose flour

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

3        large eggs

1        cup Italian flavored bread crumbs

½ (one half) cup fresh parsley leaves

6        tablespoons EVOO, olive oil, divided

4        tablespoons butter, divided

6        cups baby arugula or fresh baby spinach leaves

1        teaspoon lemon juice

Lemon wedges

In a shallow dish soak fish with the milk and 2 cups of ice for about 15 to 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In another shallow dish whisk together flour with salt and pepper.

In another dish whisk together eggs.  In another dish place flavored bread crumbs.

One at time, remove fillets from the milk and dredge in flour shaking off any excess. Dip fillet in eggs, then coat with breadcrumbs, gently pressing to coat both sides. Transfer to a large plate.

Foil line a baking sheet. In a skillet over medium high heat 2-tablespoons olive oil and butter. Add 2 fillets at a time and cook until a golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Place cooked fillets on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining fillets, adding 2 more tablespoons olive oil and butter. Place fillets to the oven a bake until cooked through, about 7-9 minutes.

Toss arugula with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil with salt and pepper to taste and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Serve the fish with the arugula salad an lemon wedges.       

Romaine and Frisee Salad with Mozzarella

¼ (one fourth) cup balsamic vinegar

2        tablespoons brown sugar

2tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2/3 (two thirds) cup EVOO, olive oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1        red, yellow or orange sweet bell pepper, cut into thin slices

1        small Vidalia or sweet onion, cut into thin rings

2        cups frisee

4        cups romaine lettuce

2        tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, stems removed

Walnuts, toasted, if desired for garnish

4        ounces mozzarella cubes or balls

In a saucepan boil balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and lemon juice until thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside to cool.

In a large salad bowl toss together frisee and romaine lettuce. Add sliced onion, parsley, and walnuts, if desired. Toss with the vinegar dressing. When ready to serve add mozzarella balls or cubes, toss and serve.

Portobello Parmesan

Serves 4-6

1        tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

3        medium portobello mushroom caps

4        cloves garlic, smashed

1        28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1        teaspoon dried sweet basil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

2        cups Italian flavored bread crumbs

1        cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2        tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

4        large eggs

1        cup all-purpose flour

Canola oil for frying

4        ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly vegetable spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Scrape out the gills of the Portobello mushrooms with a spoon. Halve the 3- whole mushrooms in half horizontally, making 6 thin rounds.

In a saucepan over medium heat cook garlic for about 1-2 minutes. Lower heat to low and add tomatoes and basil, stirring, cook about another 10 minutes. Transfer tomato mixture to a blender or food processor to puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In a shallow dish whisk together Italian bread crumbs, ½ (one half) cup Parmesan cheese, 1-tablespoon parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

In another shallow dish whisk eggs and 2-tablespoons water together. In a third shallow dish put flour.

Dredge the mushroom slices in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip in egg mixture then in bread crumb mixture, pressing to coat both sides.

Heat ½ (one half) inch oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Working in small batches fry the mushrooms until a golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.

Spread a layer of the tomato mixture in bottom of the prepared baking dish. Add the fried mushroom slices, then cover with the remaining tomato mixture. Top with mozzarella slices and ½ (one half) cup Parmesan cheese. Bake until a golden brown about 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1-tablespoon parsley.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.