Feeling creative and hungry on this mild afternoon, I let the Mexican pozole we enjoyed the other day inspire me to invent a "fusion" meatless dinner-in-a-dish, matching an Italian concept with Mexican flavors to create ... Pozole Fazool!

Like an Italian pasta fazool, it incorporates pasta and beans in a tomato sauce with cheese. Like a Mexican pozole, it adds hominy and spicy South-of- the-border flavors. However weird, it definitely passed muster with my wife and me (although the cats, looking for meat handouts, were pretty torqued about the whole thing), and we'll definitely be adding it to the rotation.

It's a simple process, requiring well under an hour from start to finish.

Smash a large garlic clove and heat it in a half-tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet until it's sizzling and aromatic. Then lower heat and add 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons chopped green chiles, 1 teaspoon red New Mexico chile powder, a bit of fresh chopped or dried oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 15 or 20 minutes.

Drain and rinse one 15-ounce can of white hominy (pozole) and one 15-ounce can of pinto beans, and set aside.

Boil one cup medium-size pasta shells (conchiglie) in salted water until just al dente.

Grate about 2 ounces of Mexican Chihuahua cheese and 2 ounces of Queso Blanco (specifics not critical; freely substitute Monterey Jack for the Chihuahua, ricotta or mozzarella for the Queso Blanco, add a dash of Parmesan or Romano, etc., etc.)

Assemble: Drain and stir the beans and hominy into the tomato sauce, discarding the garlic clove. Drain and stir in the pasta, and dump all into an ovenproof bowl or casserole. Top with the cheese, and bake at 350 F for 10 or 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.

Serve with crusty bread and your choice of green salad or vegetable (we went with steamed broccoli).

This one, although meatless, stood up well to an earthy red wine, the Topolos Old Vineyard Reserve. It would make a good beer match with something dark and flavorful like Brooklyn Brown Ale or Anchor Porter.