If you’re like me, you love a good baked pasta. Whether it’s mac & cheese, lasagna or 3-cheese ziti, I’m a big fan. But indulgent, cheese-filled dishes are not ones a eat regularly. Don’t get me wrong, i enjoy them without guilt when the time is right. But as part of a balanced eating lifestyle, I limit animal product consumption on most days. So for an everyday type of baked pasta, I turn to this vegan version that I make both for myself & for dairy-free clients.
Tofu ricotta is the wow factor in this dish. But it’s super duper easy to make. Tofu, miso and a few other ingredients are added to a food processor & processed until a ricotta-ish texture is reached. That’s all there is to it!
As for the marinara, a store-bought version of course works for this. I’ve included my recipe for an easy marinara, but that’s just if you have the time. I’m all for using store-bought shortcuts, as long as they’re all-natural and high-quality. Once the sauce and ricotta are figured out, this dish comes together effortlessly. Simply toss cooked pasta & broccoli florets with some of the sauce and layer away!
Vegan Baked Penne with Tofu Ricotta & Broccoli
5 cups marinara sauce (store-bought OR my recipe follows)
1 lb penne pasta, I prefer whole wheat
12-15 oz broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
1 batch (2+ cups) vegan tofu ricotta (recipe follows)
fresh torn/chopped basil for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add broccoli to a large colander. Cook pasta to al dente, drain over broccoli florets in colander. Transfer pasta/broccoli back to pot or to a large mixing bowl.
In a large baking dish, line the bottom of the dish with 1 cup marinara sauce. Reserve an additional cup sauce for the topping, set aside. Toss pasta/broccoli with the remaining 3 cups marinara sauce.
Pour half of the pasta mixture into the baking dish. Add half of the tofu ricotta in dollops evenly covering the pasta layer. Top ricotta with remaining pasta. Evenly distribute remaining ricotta over top of pasta. Pour reserved 1 cup marinara sauce over ricotta and gently swirl.
Transfer dish to oven. Bake for about 30 minutes or until pasta is bubbly. Garnish with fresh basil.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (optional)
1 large white or yellow onion, minced
sea salt, fine grain
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
42 ounces canned tomatoes (whole peeled tomatoes preferred)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Heat olive oil and red pepper flake in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add minced onion and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Sweat onions for about 8 minutes, or until softened and translucent.
Add minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, herbs and another teaspoon sea salt. Gently break up tomatoes if using whole tomatoes. Bring to a rolling simmer, reduce to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes, partially covered, stirring frequently. If using whole canned tomatoes, continue breaking up from time to time.
Add more salt to taste. Blend sauce if desired using an immersion blender or standing blender.
For Vegan Tofu Ricotta
1 block extra firm tofu
3 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs light miso (yellow or white)
3 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1.5 tsp fine grain sea salt
Add all ingredients to a food processor. Process until a smooth but semi-grainy texture, like ricotta, is achieved.