Hearty Plant-Based Meals for the Carnivores in Your Life: Easy-Cheesy Bean Bake with Pepperoni

First things first: plant-based doesn’t mean vegetarian. It means that plants are the cornerstone of the meal. If meat is involved, it’s flavor, not foundation. Side, not star.

Image credit: NY Times Cooking | my recipe is a remix of their “Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake” by Ali Slagle

If you (or the people for whom you cook) can’t go meatless, go less-meat. This is one of the most impactful ways you can help the planet. “Cutting meat consumption is a powerful and personal thing most Americans can do to tackle the climate crisis, and they can do it immediately,” writes Naomi Oreskes in Scientific American. “About 40 percent of greenhouse gases come from agriculture, deforestation and other land-use changes” related to food.

Sermon over. Onto the dish, which is healthy, delicious, cheap, simple, and fast. Its cheesy goodness makes good leftovers, too. Let’s assemble the mise en place.

10-inch or 12-inch oven-safe skillet (If you’ve got a cast-iron skillet, use that.)

Chef’s knife

Microplane (optional)

Colander

Cutting board

Liquid measuring cup

Teaspoon

Measuring cup for dry goods: 1 cup and 1/2 cup

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves

Yellow onion

1 cup mozzarella, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated (or from a can)

Tomato paste (6 oz. can)

Diced tomatoes (14.5 oz. can)

White beans (Two 15 oz. cans; I prefer cannellini beans)

Pepperonis (somewhere between 10–20. I prefer turkey pepperoni because poultry has a lower impact on the planet than pork)

Oregano

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt & pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 475
  2. Pour 1/4 cup of olive oil into skillet. Heat oil on medium on your stovetop.
  3. While the oil is heating up, dice the onion. Sauté onion in the skillet for about 5–7 minutes. Sprinkle in a little salt. Stir occasionally.
  4. While the onion is cooking, mince 4 cloves of garlic, either using the optional microplane or your chef’s knife. Drain the beans and the diced tomatoes in the colander. Open that can of tomato paste. Boil 1/2 cup of water.
  5. Add garlic, oregano (1 tsp), and a couple shakes of red pepper flakes (optional) to the skillet and stir. Let it cook for a minute.
  6. Add tomato paste and stir. Let it cook for a minute.
  7. Add beans, diced tomatoes, and 1/2 cup of boiling water to the skillet. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat on the stovetop.
  8. Add all the mozzarella cheese (1 cup) and about half of the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine.
  9. Place pepperonis on the top. Deal ’em out like cards. Then sprinkle the remaining parm on top of the pepperonis.
  10. Pop the skillet into the hot oven for 10 minutes. While it’s baking, you might whip up a green salad.
  11. Serve immediately. Bask in compliments.

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