Cinco de Mayo + comfort food. Now that’s a combo I can get behind. This Mexican-food-inspired combo might also add to my behind, so I made this cheesy pasta casserole as healthy as possible.
This veggie-filled enchilada pasta bake is – you guessed it – made with loads of veggies. In fact, there are about as many veggies in there as there is pasta. Maybe even a little more.
And. And! The pasta is whole wheat.
But don’t worry. It’s definitely not rabbit food. This stuff is smothered in cheddar cheese and baked to bubbly perfection, so we’ve got that. The carnivores can even get their own dish with ground beef added to the mix.
Me, I’m good with the hearty veggies – bell peppers, zucchini, and spinach – along with a confetti of black beans. A little sour cream adds just a bit of creaminess and tang to the spicy enchilada sauce, added with a generous touch to guarantee pure sauciness in every bite. Saucy is good. No dry casseroles here.
It’s worth noting that when I first started developing this recipe, I made the enchilada sauce from scratch. But ultimately, I felt like it just made the recipe too fussy – too many ingredients, too many steps. So I say, go with a good prepared enchilada sauce – but if you’re feeling ambitious, go ahead and make your own! It’s a pretty forgiving recipe that way.
On top of all that sauce and pasta and veggies, there’s a nice layer of glorious melty cheddar. And olives! Black olives. You’ve got to have the olives. Man, I love olives.
I’m kind of proud of this one, I’ve gotta say. It’s a very, very nice way to eat your vegetables, be it Cinco de Mayo or any other day of the year.
Veggie-Filled Enchilada Pasta Bake (with Optional Ground Beef)
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion (diced (about 2 cups))
- 1 medium green bell pepper (cut into 1-inch strips)
- 1 medium red bell pepper (cut into 1-inch strips)
- 2 medium zucchini (halved and sliced (about 2 cups))
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 28-ounce can enchilada sauce (I like a hotter version, but mild works just fine too)
- 1/2 cup sour cream (I use low fat, plus more for topping if desired)
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
- 1/2 cup black olives (halved)
- 3 green onions (scallions, diced)
If adding ground beef to half:
- 1/2 pound lean ground beef (cooked, crumbled, and drained)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook pasta, according to package instructions, until just al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Add olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Select a pot that will be large enough for mixing the veggies, pasta and sauce later on. Add the onion, bell peppers, and zucchini. Saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Add baby spinach and saute, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add salt and stir.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the enchilada sauce and the sour cream.
If making an all-veggie version:
- Add the black beans, sauce, and cooked pasta to the sauteed veggies. Toss gently to distribute. Pour veggie and pasta mixture into a 9-inch x 13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and dot with halved olives. Continue to "Bake" step.
If making a half veggie, half ground beef version:
- Cook ground beef in a medium saute pan over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain.
- Add the black beans, sauce, and cooked pasta to the sauteed veggies. Toss gently to distribute. Transfer 5 cups of the pasta mixture to an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish and set aside. Add the hamburger to the remaining pasta mixture, mix gently, and pour into another 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle each with cheddar cheese. Dot with halved olives (my resident carnivore isn't fond of olives, so I put 'em all on mine and leave his plain. Great way to tell the meaty dish from the veggie dish, too). Continue to "Bake" step.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until heated through, bubbling, and the cheese has melted.
- Sprinkle green onions over the top. Serve with sour cream for topping, if desired.
I bet this would be delicious with some shredded chicken instead of the ground beef!
Our first test recipe was 100% vegetarian, and as my hubby was eating his portion, I asked for his advice on the meat add-in. I suggested chicken because I thought the same as you, but he really wanted ground beef! So we didn’t try with chicken, but I was thinking the same thing. 🙂
Yum! You combined my two favourite things! Pasta and Mexican food. Love all the added veggies. I have a ton of veggies chopped in the fridge. I just need to grab some enchilada sauce and I’ll make this this week 🙂 Awesome recipe!!!
I admit to feeling totally guilty for using canned enchilada sauce, but it makes this so, so easy! 😉
You should definitely be proud of this one! What a gorgeous combination. I love when a pasta dish is heavy on the veggies and with a meat eater option both palates in the house will be happy 🙂
Thanks, Amy! I just kept throwing the veggies in … I figured, why not?! And I love it this way. 🙂
Oh, this dish is perfect for the boys’ welcome home dinner on Saturday night! You have come up with yet another great ‘stock’ recipe .
Thanks so much, Mary! Sounds like Saturday will definitely be a reason to celebrate. Enjoy!
I made this last night, and WOW, it was really freakin’ good! I had some time to waste, so I tossed the veggies with a little olive oil and fajita spice and roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes, rather than sauteing them. The meat-nosher of the house loved it too :). Thanks for a great recipe!
I love the idea of roasting the veggies (and with fajita spices no less – yum)! I’m so glad you liked it – and it’s always the best praise of all when the carnivores go for it, too. 🙂
Wow this is such a great idea! Perfect leftovers to take to work!
You Cinco de Mayo sooooo good, my dear! Anything Mexican or made in a casserole dish is sure to be a winner in my book, and you double-whammied, so this is a home run! So glad you had a delicious Cinco and thanks for the amazing recipe!
It’s *so* not traditional Mexican fare, but we did enjoy Palomas on Cinco de Mayo and I’m pretty sure that’s a little more authentic. I hope! 😉
This is wonderful, Kare! Love these flavors!
Thanks, Cassie! 🙂
I thought a cup of cheese was 4 ounces, so two cups was 8oz, not 16oz like stated above. Anyone know for sure?
Ack, you’re right! Thanks so much for pointing out my error. I’ve corrected the recipe.
This was a hit for me and my hubby! I overcooked the veggies a bit I think now that I see your pics again but still delish! I also added Tofurkey meatless, non-GMO ground meat style crumbles and that worked great. I used Daiya cheddar so all I was missing to make this vegan was non-dairy sour cream….I used regular. Next time I won’t be shy about adding extra veggies and will be sure not to let them saute too long. This recipe is a keeper…..Thanks!
Hi Beth, I’m so glad you liked it! Love your ideas for making it vegan. I keep meaning to try Daiya but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I need to!
This was soooo good! My whole family loved it, the veggie version, and my husband loves him some meat. I used 4 oz of cheese (bc I’m counting calories) and it was perfect. I also used homemade enchilada sauce. Man, this recipe is serious good.
Yay! I’m so glad you liked it! Good to know that you can reduce the cheese and it’s still good. I could stand to do the same! 😉
Pingback: I Cooked: Veggie Pasta Enchilada Bake | Basically I'm Complicated
I just discovered your website today and spent about an hour on this site!!! AMAZING!!!! I love your site and every recipe!!!
Hi Camilla, thank you so much! I’m so glad you’re here and saw fit to poke around the blog some. 🙂 Thanks again for such a nice comment.
I made the veggie version, and it’s absolutely delicious. 2 important things to note:
Choice of enchilada sauce makes a huge difference in the taste, I used Las Palmas, but next time I will use one that is less vinegary and more savory
Sauce/veggie to pasta ratio is a little on the saucy side, I used double the pasta it called for and it was still fabulous.
Next time I will mix a portion of the cheese in with the pasta, veggies and sauce because I think it will distribute the cheesy flavor better.
I’m about to make this using faux meat crumbles to please my carnivore hubby. After reading the comment tho I might have gone with a spiced up can of jackfruit shredded like chicken. SO good. I use that for tacos.
I am using cashew based queso instead of the cheese and sour cream.
I’ll let you know!!
My fiance and I made this tonight, half with beef for him and half without for me, and it was SO good! So many flavors and so vegetable-heavy! Thanks for this!
Yay! So glad you liked it!
I added red pepper seasoning and avocado with lemon juice and it tastes great!!