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Easy dinner recipes: Great Meatless Monday ideas for cheese lovers

It's Meatless Monday. Love cheese? Have we got great ideas for you.

El Cholo's chiles rellenos: These chiles rellenos, from one of Los Angeles' most venerable Mexican restaurants, have an avid following all their own. The trick with that extra-fluffy coating lies in El Cholo's method: A little of the whipped egg batter is fried on its own until set, then a stuffed chile is gently laid over; more batter is spooned over the chile, then it is flipped and fried to golden perfection. Drizzle a spoonful of the rich and slightly tangy relleno sauce over the top to complete this signature dish.

Cheesy spinach mac: Cheese, more cheese, mushrooms, spinach, panko crumbs and truffle oil. It's the way the Beachcomber does mac 'n' cheese.

QUICK & EASY: 99 terrific recipes in about an hour or less

Tagliolini al limone: We loved the wonderful simplicity to this dish: Fresh basil and a touch of lemon are infused with a little heavy cream, which is cooked down just until it thickens, and is poured over pasta. Topped with fresh-grated Parmesan and fresh-cracked pepper, it makes for a remarkably easy but elegant meal. You can find all of the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

EL CHOLO'S CHILES RELLENOS

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from El Cholo

RELLENO SAUCE

1 tablespoon oil

3 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2 onion, chopped

2 teaspoons vinegar

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

2 whole canned green chiles, diced

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 bay leaves

Salt

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Stir in the garlic, oregano, onion, vinegar, bell pepper, tomatoes (and their juice), chiles and broth. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the black pepper, bay leaves and salt to taste.

2. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened and the tomatoes start to break apart, about 25 minutes.

3. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves, and mash the tomatoes with a potato masher or whisk until you have a coarse sauce. Season again to taste. Set aside in a warm place.

CHILES RELLENOS

3/4 pound grated cheddar cheese

6 whole canned green chiles

6 eggs, separated

Vegetable oil

Relleno sauce

1. Divide the cheese into 6 mounds and roll each mound into a football-shaped ball with your hands. Slit each chile lengthwise halfway and gently stuff a ball of cheese into each. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, 4 to 6 minutes. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until frothy. Gently fold the yolks into the whites to complete your egg batter.

3. In a large skillet or frying pan, add enough oil to come up the sides by one-half inch. Heat the oil until a thermometer inserted reads 350 degrees.

4. Gently spoon a little egg batter into the pan, spreading it so it is roughly the dimensions of one side of a stuffed chile. As soon as the batter begins to set, 1 to 2 minutes, lay a chile over the top, then spread an equivalent amount of batter over the chile.

5. Turn over the chile relleno and fry an additional 1 to 2 minutes until golden on all sides. Remove the chile relleno with a slotted spatula or spoon, and place on a warm plate. Repeat until you have 6 chiles rellenos.

6. Spoon one-half cup sauce over each chile relleno and serve immediately.

Each serving: 483 calories; 22 grams protein; 10 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 40 grams fat; 15 grams saturated fat; 271 mg. cholesterol; 672 mg. sodium.

THE BEACHCOMBER'S SPINACH TRUFFLE MAC

Total time: 1 hour

Servings: 4 to 8

Note: Adapted from the Beachcomber at Crystal Cove. Cavatappi pasta is a type of tube pasta, similar to macaroni; it is available at select gourmet grocers and cooking supply stores.

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided

8 ounces sliced white button mushrooms, about 4 cups

4 ounces baby spinach, about 4 cups

2 cups heavy cream

12 ounces shredded smoked Gouda, about 3 cups

8 ounces grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese, a generous 2 cups, plus ¼ cup grated Parmigiano, divided

1/4 cup white truffle oil

1 (1-pound box) cavatappi or macaroni pasta, cooked and drained

Salt and white pepper

4 ounces (2 cups) mixed mushrooms, such as chanterelle, king, enoki, oyster and black trumpet

1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style) bread crumbs

Parsley sprigs, for garnish

1. Heat a medium, heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add one-half cup (1 stick) of butter, swirling to melt.

2. Add the button mushrooms and sauté until lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach and continue to sauté for a minute to wilt.

3. Stir in the heavy cream, smoked Gouda, 8 ounces pecorino cheese and truffle oil, and reduce the heat slightly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.

4. Toss in the pasta and heat through, stirring until the sauce is thickened and creamy. Taste and season if desired. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.

5. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Melt the remaining butter and sauté the mixed mushrooms until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

6. In a small bowl, toss together the panko crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

7. To plate, divide the pasta among 4 to 8 oven-proof bowls. Top the pasta with the bread crumb mixture and place the bowls under the broiler. Broil the pasta just until the topping starts to brown, about a minute, depending on the distance of the broiler.

8. Remove the bowls from the broiler and top each serving with the sauteed mushrooms and a sprig of parsley. Serve immediately.

Each of 8 servings: 912 calories; 33 grams protein; 50 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 66 grams fat; 38 grams saturated fat; 199 mg cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 893 mg sodium.

ANGELINI OSTERIA'S TAGLIOLINI AL LIMONE

Total time: About 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from Angelini Osteria in Los Angeles

1/2 pound tagliolini pasta

2 tablespoons butter

8 large basil leaves, julienned

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Fresh ground black pepper

Lemon wedges, garnish

1. Cook the pasta: In a large bowl of salted boiling water, add the pasta. Cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta.

2. While the pasta is cooking, start to make the sauce: In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the basil and cook, stirring frequently, until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and continue to cook until the lemon juice is reduced by half. Reduce the heat to low and add the cream. Slowly cook the cream until it thickens to a sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Divide the pasta between 4 to 6 serving bowls and ladle the sauce evenly over the servings. Divide the cheese between the portions, sprinkling it evenly over the sauce, and top each serving with a few grinds of pepper. Serve each portion with a lemon wedge on the side.

Each serving: 490 calories; 9 grams protein; 45 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 30 grams fat; 19 grams saturated fat; 101 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 59 mg. sodium.

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