Sunday, July 26, 2009

Baked Pasta

I know, I know.....I haven't updated my blog for a LONG while! During the warmer months, I've been making a lot of cold dishes. I've hosted and attended several gatherings over the last few months, where I've been able to share my new cold/room temperature creations. Although I enjoy creating these cold dishes, I just can't seem to get very motivated to write about the subject. So instead, I'm going to tell you about my new favorite casserole dish I created. The concept was based on the baked spaghetti my mom made when I was a kid. However, I've put more of a gourmet spin on it.

Set oven to 350 degrees.

1st: Prepare around 14 to 16 ounces of pasta (I personally like penne made from flax and whole wheat) based on package cooking instructions.

2nd: While step one is in progress, add the following to a large soup pot (all ingredients are optional after the first two) and cook on medium-high:
~1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
~1/4 to 1/3 container of vegan (tofu) cream cheese
~2 to 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
~1 tablespoon olive oil
~1/4 to 1/3 cup white wine
to taste.....add...
~chopped fresh or dried basil
~chopped fresh or dried oregano
~red chili flakes
~fresh ground pepper
~fresh ground sea salt
~roasted or fresh garlic (chopped)
~agave syrup

3rd: add any or all of the following to the sauce and simmer on low:
~1/4 cup roasted pine nuts
~approximately 1 pound of seitan chopped into bite sized pieces (or a package of faux chicken chopped into small pieces) OR
~1/2 to 1 cup TVP (hydrated with equal parts water first)

4th: In a large mixing bowl add the following and mix thoroughly:
~one block firm tofu (mashed with fork into a smooth yet chunky consistency)
~onion and garlic powder (to taste)
~salt and pepper (to taste)
~dried basil (to taste)
~1/8 cup nutritional yeast (add more to taste)

5th: Scoop a few spoonfuls of the mixing bowl contents and add it to the sauce.

6th: Add cooked pasta to sauce and fully mix. Pour contents into large baking dish.

7th: In the mixing bowl, add the following and mix thoroughly with tofu:
~1 jar or can of artichoke hearts (drained/chopped)
~2 to 3 handfuls of bread crumbs (I use the vegan seasoned bread crumbs from Trader Joe's)

8th: Spread the mixture over the top of the pasta, covering the entire casserole. Sprinkle additional bread crumbs on top. Bake for approximately 25 minutes. You may need to broil it shortly to get the top nice and brown.

This dish is rather filling, but it goes nicely with a side of steamed broccoli or spinach salad. I also like to pair it with crusty bread served with hot, roasted garlic and a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.