Vegan & Gluten Free Baked ziti

26 Sep

It was a tradition in my home growing up that we got to pick whatever we wanted to eat on our birthdays. For me it was always the same: Baked ziti and a cookie puss ice cream cake. I can’t even type “cookie puss” without laughing on the inside.. How dirty. A sure sign of my budding lesbianism…. Actually though, it was a sure sign of my “if it’s free it’s for me” mentality- with cookie puss you got an ice cream cake AND and an ice cream cone!!! Bonus! But I digress… The real star of the show was my mothers baked ziti. I loved it in a very serious way. The chunky ricotta cheese, the stringy mozzarella that would stretch when it was scopped from serving bowl to dinner plate… I loved it. Below is my own rendition of my moms baked ziti. The tofu gives it a rocotta-esq taste while the daiya stretches and melts. So yummy.
The photo below may not be the prettiest but I assure you, it’s a photo pure deliciousness.

Small but deep baking dish (I use glass) and 1 larger cookie sheet.
8 oz brown rice pasta- preferably ziti  (I use Trader Joes- it’s only $1.99!) *wheat pasta will work also.
3/4 or a full jar of pre-made tomato sauce
1 Tsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 small onion- chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic- chopped
5 White button Mushrooms- sliced
1/4 bag Mozzarella Daiya Cheese (you can use more if you like)
1/2 block pressed tofu (any firmness will do but I prefer soft)
5 Tbsp Nutritional yeast
1 Tsp Black salt (regular salt will work)
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Onion Powder

Mix together the nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. Add the pressed tofu to the mixture and crumble/mix with your hands. Add 1/2 the daiya cheese to the mixture and mix. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Boil water for pasta
Saute onion in oil until transparent (about 3 minutes)
Add the garlic and saute for 45 seconds.
Add mushrooms, saute until the mushrooms fully release their moisture (about 4 minutes)

Mix tomato sauce, sauteed mix, dried oregano, and dried basil in a pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer- stirring often.
At this point your pasta water should be boiling. Add pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the lowest recommended cooking time. The pasta should be very al dente (it will cook further when baked).

Drain pasta and combine with tofu mixture and 3/4 of the tomato sauce in the baking dish. Top with the last 1/4 of tomato sauce and top with the remaining daiya cheese. Cover the baking pan with the cookie sheet. You can also cover the dish with foil but I find it wasteful, a cookie sheet works even better than foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes

Serves 4 generously.

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