Baked Ziti (Vegan.com Top 10 Recipe, 2008)

Baked Ziti

Recipe from Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles, by Beverly Lynn Bennett.
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Beverly’s Recipe Introduction: Most of us are familiar with pizza, stuffed manicotti, and lasagna, but another equally delicious oven-baked Italian favorite is baked ziti. This hearty and flavorful casserole is traditionally made with one or more types of cheese and an egg, but my Italian husband says this veganized version tastes a lot like the baked ziti that his great-grandmother used to make. I wanted to share this recipe with Vegan.com readers because it’s easy to make and perfect for a quiet dinner at home, or for wowing people (even vegan food skeptics) with some rustic and authentic Italian comfort food at dinner parties or potlucks. This baked pasta casserole shares many of the same components and flavors of classic Italian lasagne, but it can be made with less effort and in just a fraction of the time. It’s made with ziti, which is a long, narrow, tube-shaped pasta. If you can’t find ziti in your store, substitute penne or any other similarly shaped pasta. Serve this casserole with steamed vegetables or a leafy green salad.


INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces whole grain ziti or other tube-shaped pasta of choice
8 ounces firm or extra-firm regular tofu
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons agave nectar or brown rice syrup
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons onion powder
¾ teaspoon dried basil
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
¹/? teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup stemmed and chopped spinach
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1½ cups bottled marinara sauce or other tomato sauce of choice
¼ cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese or other vegan cheese of choice

DIRECTIONS:
To cook the ziti, fill a large pot two-thirds full with filtered water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the ziti and cook, stirring occasionally, according to the time on the package instructions or until tender.

Meanwhile, crumble the tofu into a large bowl using your fingers. Add the nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, agave nectar, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper and mash with a fork until completely smooth.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-inch square baking pan or casserole dish. Drain the ziti in a colander and add it to the tofu mixture along with the chopped spinach and parsley. Stir until well combined.

Place half of the ziti mixture into the prepared pan. Top it with half of the marinara sauce and half of the shredded cheese. Repeat the layering procedure with the remaining ziti, marinara sauce, and cheese. Sprinkle a little additional cheese or nutritional yeast flakes over the top, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned around the edges. Serve hot.

VARIATIONS:
– Replace the spinach with other dark leafy greens of your choice.
– Add other chopped or sliced vegetables such as broccoli, Asian eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, or zucchini.
– Add other ingredients like chopped fresh basil, sliced olives, sliced or cubed vegan sausage, or meatless meatballs.

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

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Recipe and Photo © 2008, featured by Vegan.com with permission of the author and publisher.