Sunday, June 7, 2009

Baked Ziti

I've been hankerin' for baked ziti for weeks, but just didn't have the 'oompf' to figure out how to do it. It's not something I ever made before I became vegan so while I had a vague idea of what was needed I was still sort of at a loss. Yesterday I finally got myself googling for recipes and while I found a few (hundreds of non-vegan recipes, natch) I ended up futzing with what I did find, mostly because I was in the mood to cook and not in the mood to shop so I had to make substitutions depending on what I had in the house. The 'ricotta uncheez' recipe is adapted from Kathleen's lasagna recipe on Vegweb, and while it's not white like ricotta, the texture and taste work really, really well.  I was never a big ricotta fan, but this stuff - I LOVE! 

Most baked ziti recipes are for a huge panful (9X13). Since I only had a half box of rigatoni and one jar of sauce I was forced to make a half portion. Of course, now I'm sad because it came out so good I wish I'd made a huge platter!

Baked Ziti Vegan-style

1/2 box rigatoni (if I had ziti in the house I'd have used it, but rigatoni works fine too)
1 26 oz jar Basil Marinara sauce
1/2 package Yves 'ground beef'
5 slices Tofutti Mozarella
sprinkle of vegam 'parmesan'
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Uncheez "Ricotta"

1/2 tablespoon margarine
1 block firm silken tofu, thoroughly mashed
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup soy milk
3 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise 
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon mixed seasoning such as Spike or Mrs. Dash
1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Start by boiling the pasta - take 2-3 minutes off the suggested cooking time. You want it to be al dente because it will cook more in the oven. While the pasta's cooking preheat your oven to 350 and start making the 'cheese'

In a medium saucepan melt margarine then add the mashed tofu, mix add yeast, paprika, salt, mixed seasoning, mustard and mayonnaise, mix thoroughly and saute for 3-4 min. Then add soymilk, lower heat and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. After 5 minutes take the pot off the heat and set aside.

For this recipe I used and 8" x 8" pan, if you're doubling the recipe you'll need the more traditional 9" x 13". Lightly grease the pan with some oil or margerine. When the pasta is done drain well and layer half of it into the pan.Top the pasta with enough tomato sauce to cover, sprinkle with about a quarter package of the Yves ground 'beef' and broken up pieces of mozzarella.If you have a shredded cheese use it - it will spread more easily. I just happened to have the slices so I used them. Then take about half the 'ricotta' you just made and layer it on top of everything. This is where I sprinkled on the red pepper flakes, but if you don't like that 'kick' you can leave them out altogether.Follow that with the remaining pasta, 'beef', sauce and more mozzarella to top it off. If you have a parmesan sprinkle - now's the time to use it.
Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and pop it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. It will be bubbling and the cheese will be melted when it's done.
I didn't try freezing any, since I only made a couple of days worth, but traditionally baked ziti does freeze well and there's nothing here that makes me think this version would be any different.

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