Two things stop me from making pot pies for other than special occasions: 1) The pastry, which takes time to make, roll, cut and shape. 2) The pastry, whose buttery goodness can make it seem a little too indulgent for any old weeknight.

It’s a shame, because the nostalgic pull of a pot pie is so strong. My favorite way around the obstacles is to use something else entirely for the top, the way author Laura Wright does in this recipe from “The First Mess Cookbook.” Her “crust” consists of thinly sliced sweet potatoes whose edges crisp up during baking. You make them in ramekins, gratin dishes or other small ovenproof dishes, giving them that one-portion-just-for-you appeal of the frozen ones from my childhood.

The traditional filling, of course, is chunks of chicken, coins of carrots and peas in a white gravy. Wright takes the same down-home approach but makes the dish a little more interesting — and appealing to fans of plant-based recipes. Her filling is a hearty stew of white beans, zucchini and aromatic vegetables, bound by a sauce based on vegetable broth but enlivened by a little tomato paste, a small splash of white wine and chopped rosemary.

It’s not the only way I want to eat a pot pie, but it’s what I want tonight. I’ll save the pastry for another day.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3/4 cup)
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3/4 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus sprigs for optional garnish
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
  • One (14-ounce) can no-salt-added white beans, such as navy, cannellini or great northern (1 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine (may substitute 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar plus 1 tablespoon water)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 medium (9-ounce) sweet potato, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible (see overview)

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the middle. Place five ramekins or other 1-cup-capacity ovenproof dishes on a large rimmed baking sheet.

Step 2

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, rosemary and tomato paste, then gently stir in the zucchini and beans. Pour in the wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, taste, and add more of each, if needed.

Step 3

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture. Stir until the flour is moistened and starting to get pasty, about 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low so the mixture is at a simmer and cook until lightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

Step 4

Divide the stew among the ramekins. Arrange the sweet potato slices on top of the ramekins in a fan or layered pattern. Gently brush them with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Step 5

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the sweet potato slices are tender and lightly browned on the edges. Garnish with the rosemary, if desired, and serve hot.

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to

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Calories: 190; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 520 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugars: 5 g; Protein: 5 g.