I have a deep and abiding love for casseroles, especially as the weather starts to turn cool. This one is basically a mash-up of several time-honored classics, incorporating elements from Moosewood's Brocccoli Mushroom Noodle Casserole, Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash, and chicken(s) tetrazzini and divan (respectively), with a little seat-of-the-pants improvisation thrown in for good measure. I whipped this up on one of those chilly afternoons when you're home sick with a miserable cold and never quite make it out of your pajamas; when it emerged from the oven all warm, bubbly, and comforting, everything seemed a little bit better. And - as with all casseroles - it's even yummier reheated as leftovers!
Deluxe Hybrid Meta Autumnal Casserole Supreme
~ 1 lb. fusilli (or other pasta)
~ 1 large bunch broccoli cut into small florets with the stalks diced fine
~ 5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 5 tsps. vegan "chicken" boullion
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 yellow onion, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, chopped
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, sage, marjoram, white pepper
~ 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or 1/2-1 tsp. hot sauce)
~ Pinch of nutmeg or mace
~ 1/3 cup each: nutritional yeast, vegan Parmesan
~ 4 cups cooked, mashed winter squash and/or sweet potato
~ 1 8 oz. package vegan "chicken," cut into small pieces (TJ's or Gardein are good)
~ 1/2 cup panko crumbs
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ 1 tbsp. melted margarine
~ 1 tsp. paprika
~ Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the broccoli to the pot in the last two minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving one cup of the cooking water.
~ Heat the soy milk and mix with the bouillon, and the bay leaves; cover and set aside.
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large, deep pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 3 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms and seasonings and cook another 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their liquid.
~ Stir in the nutritional yeast and the parmesan, and begin adding the soymilk mixture (be sure to remove the bay leaves!) by cupfuls, stirring with each addition.
~ Add the squash and/or sweet potatoes and the "chicken," and mix thoroughly.
~ Add the cooked pasta and broccoli, make sure everything is well combined, and transfer to the prepared casserole.
~ In a small bowl, combine the panko, 2 tbsp. nooch, melted margarine, and paprika. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole and cover the whole business with aluminum foil.
~ Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, until the casserole is browned and bubbling.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.