Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Baked Ziti & Eggplant Baked Ziti

Tucson, AZ

Baked ziti is a traditional Italian-American family dish.  Basically it is a casserole of pasta, sauce, and cheese.  Most often it is served on special occasions, probably because it requires some time and some love. It is one of my first food memories,  and it reminds me of family gatherings, my mother, my grandparents,  and the comforts of home.  It was very important to me to recreate this dish keeping those nostalgic flavors intact.  Taking years to perfect, I believe this recipe can fool anyone,  (including your Italian grandmother!) into thinking they are eating the traditional dish.

Baked Ziti
Kid Friendly, Vegan
serves 4-6

1 lb Ziti Pasta (Penne or Rigatoni would make good substitutes)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups Homemade Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
1 cup firm tofu, pressed of most liquid and crumbled by hand or with a fork
1 ½ cups Homemade "Moxarella" (recipe below)
½ Tbsp fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375º.
Cook pasta until just before al dente.  Drain and stir in olive oil immediately to keep pasta from sticking.  Add 2 ½ cups of sauce and the crumbled tofu.  Stir well to combine.
In a glass 9x13"casserole dish, ladle ½ cup of the sauce on the bottom.  Spread to coat the bottom of the dish with sauce.  Add half of the pasta/tofu/sauce mixture and spread out evenly in the casserole dish.  Spread of half of the "Moxarella" evenly across the top of the pasta.  Add the rest of the pasta mixture.  Spread the rest of the "Moxarella" across the top.  Cover the casserole dish with foil.  Bake 35-45 minutes.  Sprinkle parsley on top.  Serve hot.

You can make the cheese and sauce a day or two in advance to save time.

For the Sauce:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup fennel, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
⅓ cup red wine
½ cup water
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp fennel seed
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp garlic powder

In a pot, over med/high heat, heat oil.  Ad onion and fennel.  Sauté for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté another 3 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally.

For the "Moxarella"
This recipe is not mine, but i've made it multiple times and it is great!  

¼ cup raw cashews (soaked in water for several hours and then drained IF you don’t have a high powered blender)
1 cup hot water
2  tablespoons + 1 teaspoon tapioca starch
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
1 small garlic clove, minced
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Blend all ingredients together in a high speed blender or food processor until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into a small saucepan and cook, stirring constantly over medium high heat. After a couple of minutes the mixture will start to look like it’s curdling or separating. This is totally normal, reduce heat to medium and KEEP stirring so you don’t burn the cheese to the bottom of the pot. Keep cooking and stirring til really thick (about 2–3 more minutes) and the mixture becomes like a cohesive mass of melted dairy cheese that stretches. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

Click the link below for the
Original "Moxarella" Recipe

If you just cannot decide whether you want Baked Ziti or Eggplant Parm:

Eggplant Baked Ziti

Eggplant Baked Ziti

I'm not gonna lie, this will take all day to make!  But of course it is so worth it.  Use recipe above, but add 2 layers of breaded eggplant before baking!

For the eggplant:
1 eggplant (w/dark purple skin and as few bruises as possible)
sea salt
½ cup vegan breadcrumbs
½ cup corn starch
½ cup egg replacer ( i use ground flax seed and water)
olive oil

Peel eggplant and cut into thin slices.  Layer slices in a large bowl.  After every couple layers, sprinkle with salt.  When you have it all layered, cover it with a dish or saucer that fits inside the top of the bowl.  Every half hour or so, drain any liquid from the eggplant by pushing down on the saucer &inverting the bowl.  This really makes the eggplant less bitter.  I let it sit and drain it for at least 2 hours.  

While in the draining process, chill the egg replacer in the refrigerator.  In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and cornstarch.  If the breadcrumbs are plain, I add some salt, oregano, and dried parsley to the mix.  

Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Dip each slice in the egg replacer, and then into the breading mix.  

Fry the breaded eggplant until golden brown on each side.  You may have to do this in a few batches, so that they fit in a single layer in the pan.  

Add the fried eggplant in layers to your ziti.  Bake according to the ziti recipe.

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