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Dinner in a flash: Baked portabello mushroom caps

I saw a funny meme on Facebook a few years ago that I have since seen repeat itself a lot recently. The gist of it was that adulthood is just deciding what you want to cook for dinner, every night, for the rest of your damn life until the day you die. Bleak, much? Yeah, a little. True? Without a doubt, and taking on such new meaning, as COVID-19 lock-downs continue and the pace of the vaccine roll-out drags on. (Of course, we all still have to be mindful of the common-sense practices of extra hand washing, social distancing, and mask-wearing we have found a new routine in doing over the past twelve or more months.)

The never-ending stay-at-home fatigue is very real in my household. For me, March 16th will mark a year since I last stepped foot in my office in PA, which is about an hour from where I live in NJ. I don’t lament the hours spent commuting each day a. single. bit. I am so glad to have some of that time back in my day, but I do miss the flexibility to travel to different offices, have real interaction as well as lunch with colleagues (in-person “face time”, not “FaceTime”) or stop for dinner on the way home. In addition to going to “live”, not virtual, tradeshows and events, these are all things I will look forward to the most about getting back to a semi-normal working situation, hopefully, later in the year.

Dave and I have had to get creative with our weeknight meals because while my commuting time has gone away, it doesn’t always mean extra time at night to spend freely. A con of working from home is certainly that the morning, afternoon and evening hours can sort-of all bleed together. Before I know it (like right now), it’s almost dinner time, and I’m still at the computer. And wedding planning, of course, has also eaten up time during the evenings, although in a (mostly) enjoyable way.

With that said, this recipe is definitely of the variety of a 30 minute, or less, meal. In fact, it’s so easy, it’s hardly a recipe: if it takes more than five minutes to assemble, and longer than 20 minutes to cook, then you’re overthinking it.

Apologies, though, to any mushroom haters: this is probably not a recipe for you.

For everyone else, you may be familiar with these as “mushroom pizzas”, as I have heard them called. The thought of a pizza comparison makes me cringe, though.

I’m not going to B.S. anyone: these may have similar flavors of pizza (tomato, basil, mozzarella) they are but are not pizza. It is pretty hard to beat pizza, IMHO, on the “noms” scale.

Similar to, but not as a replacement for, pizza, however, these are still very quick and very tasty to eat. Top the mushrooms with slices of pepperoni, cooked sausage and mozzarella, if something “meaty” is more your preference, or keep them vegetarian, as I have here.

If you’re cooking for two people, as Dave and I often do, I’d still suggest buying a big pack of portabellos. In the grocery store. They generally come 4 of 5 to a package, depending on how large the mushroom caps are. Any extras make a great lunch the next day, which you can still serve over pasta or for something that is even easier to eat as a quick lunch, chop up the leftover portabellos and mix in with the pasta. I like short pasta for this preparation, like penne or rigatoni, but have also used linguini.

If you’re counting carbs and fat, or simply want a lighter and (even) more plant-based option, substitute a vegan or similar, non-dairy cheese for the mozzarella and serve with garlic-herb cauliflower rice. Make your own cauliflower rice using a food processor, otherwise buy pre-packaged, plain cauliflower rice in the produce or frozen food section. Heat it up in the microwave or in a skillet with butter or margarine, chopped fresh parsley and basil, and fresh garlic. Don’t have fresh herbs, or looking for an easier route? Use a salt-free Italian dried herb seasoning; if it doesn’t have garlic powder, also add it.

Baked portabello mushrooms

I have made these with and without the pesto. If you don't have pesto, use a good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A pre-made balsamic "glaze" also tastes delicious, as well.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: dinner, leftovers, lunch, main course, mushroom, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4
  • 4-5 portabello mushroom caps (look for medium and large caps)
  • 8 oz shredded or cubed mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large tomato (substitute sun-dried tomatoes, if making this recipe when tomatoes are out of season)
  • 1 jar good quality basil pesto (can find with Italian foods, tomato sauce and canned tomatoes or also in the fresh/store-made foods at most grocery stores – I reccomend the fresh, if you can find it)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
If not using pesto:
  • Olive oil
  • Dried salt-free Italian herb blend
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit.

  2. If using fresh tomato, slice into 1/4" thick slices and set aside.

    If using a ball of mozzarella, also cut into 1/4" thick slices and set aside.

    Stir pesto and check for seasoning. Add additional salt and pepper, if needed, to taste, or drizzle in a little olive oil, if the pesto looks too dry.

Assembly & Cooking
  1. If using pesto: Top each mushroom cap with a tablespoon of pesto and spread to coat. Add 1-2 slices of fresh or sun-dried tomato, and 1-2 slices of mozzarella or 3 tablespoons shredded mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    If not using pesto: Top with 1-2 slices of fresh or sun-dried tomato, and 1-2 slices of mozzarella or 3 tablespoons shredded mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic (if using), and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning.

  2. Bake mushroom caps at 400° Farenheit for 15-20 minutes or until mushrooms have shrunk and cheese is melted and brown.

  3. Serve on top of cooked pasta that has been tossed with remaining pesto sauce, or with garlic-herb cauliflower rice.