pesto potato casserole with fresh basil and mozzarella, zucchini noodles with dill and grated parmesan

”Meatless Mondays” was started by someone, or maybe even a company of someones trying to redirect the public from the overconsumption of meat. This was an honorable endeavor, in my opinion. There are so many yummy ways to give meat a rest on this most unpleasant of weekdays. Pasta is one of the first ideas people have. I tried to combine pasta in the form of veggie noodles with another beloved carb: the basic happy buttery yellow potato.

Of all the potatoes, SunLite potatoes are my favorite. I’m not sure they can be found outside of FL but, if you do come across them you’ll see they have a much lower calorie, carb and fat count than most potatoes, without losing some of the same nutrients a sweet potato is known for. They may even be available to order online.

My second favorite potato is the yellow potato. I love how creamy it is in soups, mashed potatoes and breakfast sides. They come in small or medium sizes and I used mediums for this casserole as it was going to feed just two of us, and I only needed enough to fill one small casserole pan. I believe I only needed five with one for each serving and leftovers for lunches the next day.

The pesto was perfect baked with the potatoes and mozzarella… You can use store-bought and add some mayo to create more of the sauce or make your own pesto from scratch. Mayo may sound like an odd accompaniment for pesto but, I’ve made this dish without mayo and it didn’t turn out the same. Something about mayo and potatoes that always goes well… whether it’s french fries with Russian dressing or a potato salad, mayo always works.

You will need:

  • Pesto (like I said, you can make your own but, I used store bought for this – Barilla brand found in most grocery stores by the fresh pasta)
  • Mayo (any mayo brand but, make sure it’s real mayo without any chemicals – basically, don’t trade the little bit of fat for framaldohide)
  • Yellow starchy potatoes
  • Basil (fresh or dried) / Parsley (fresh or dried)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Zucchini
  • Peeler
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan (I use grated parmesan)
  • Dill (fresh or dried)

In the bottom of a casserole dish, plop some of the pesto you have into the pan and then plop some mayo. I say plop because I never measure this. I just combine and add more if I need to, until the mixture is a third up the pan. Because my casserole dish was so small, I could do this just fine with the amount of pesto I bought, and had a significant amount still remaining. Have it come up a quarter of the way if you’d like…less if you’d prefer. Basically, it will bubble up as the potatoes cook, and cook into the potatoes. It can also be used later as a sauce.

You can always add more at that time if you need to.

Taste and make sure you like the pesto to mayo ratio. Take your potatoes and quickly rinse them but leave the nutrient dense skins on. Slice into disks that will fit in your dish sitting upright. You will need to know which dish you plan to use to do this, so you can pick up the correct amount of potatoes. If you’d rather portion this out as separate dishes, use ramekins. You can place a small amount of your pesto mayo in each one and a potato and cook the ramekins instead of the whole casserole.

You can see the pesto poking up under the potatoes. Top them with salt and pepper when you’re done.

I preheated my oven to 350 degrees however, you can certainly expedite the process of cooking by raising it to 375 or 400. It all depends on how fast you need this done, and the type of oven you’re using. I love my Breville Mini Smart Oven because it’s convection; I don’t need to cook anything too long or on too high of a temperature. Try it at whichever temperature you feel comfortable with, after having used your oven several times and know how it cooks your casseroles. I did not cover this when I cooked it, you may want to if you don’t want it too brown.

My cooking time / temp: 350 for 40 mins until I could pierce the potatoes and tell that they were soft. I then placed the fresh mozzarella on top, all over the potatoes. I placed it back into the oven and let it continue to cook until the mozzarella was melted. Again, if you don’t want it to be too brown, go ahead and cover gently with aluminum foil.

In the meantime, I chopped the fresh basil (you could use parsley) and placed it aside while I rinsed the zucchini. I like to leave the skin on because I love the vibrant green color but, feel free to peel that part off. Peel the zucchini or use a spiralizer until you have enough “noodles” to feed everyone, and place it all in a bowl with some olive oil and grated parmesan. Toss with the dill and plate. Try to do this right when you think you’ll be plating. Zucchini can get a little “soggy” and you’ll want the al dente mouth feel instead so, keep the noodles for the absolute last thing you do.

The casserole should be done. Let it sit so that the pesto can rest and become thick again. Serve next to the noodles, topping the potatoes with the basil. It would also be good with chives.

You can see how the potatoes are soft and a bit crunchy on the edges… You could add some sweet onion in the future or broccoli florets. Spinach would be good as well or discs of zucchini in between the potato slices (yellow zucchini if you want to keep the casserole one color with the green zucchini on the side).

Anything can be made into a casserole and, a Meatless Monday is the perfect time to try it all out. Aside from sulking that it’s a new work week, what else is there to do?

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