Monday, November 17, 2008

Oven-baked Spinach Mushroom Penne Arrabiata

We had a friend over last night to cook dinner, and my roommate Kyle wanted to make these lasagna roll-ups he'd recently had that were apparently amazingly good. So I improvised my own little oven-baked pasta dish that was along the lines of the one he was making, with spinach, mushrooms, a spicy red sauce, and a faux spiced ricotta cheese made from tofu. All of them said that mine actually looked pretty good (although none of them tried it), and while the tofu did not necessarily imitate cheese in its flavor, the texture definitely rounded out the dish and the spices in it were flavorful in their own right.

Oven-baked Spinach Mushroom Penne Arrabiata Serves 2 - 3

For the faux ricotta cheese:

1/2 package extra firm tofu
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. lemon juice

For the pasta:

1 cup brown rice penne (I used Tinkyada)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. garlic
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped coarsely
1 small can Portobello mushrooms, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups of your favorite gluten-free tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Vegan Grated Parmesan Topping

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes so that it is still very al dente. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a small food processor, blend the tofu, spices, and lemon juice together until very creamy. Add more spices to taste, if desired. Set aside.

Place a tablespoon of olive oil and garlic in a saute pan and cook over medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes. Add the chopped spinach and cook another 2 - 3 minutes until it is wilted but still bright green. Remove from the pan and set aside. Pour the 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce into the pan and add the pepper, garlic salt, basil, oregano, thyme, and pepper flakes, adjusting the amounts to your own taste. Heat the sauce for 5 - 10 minutes until the desired flavor has developed. Pour the cooked pasta into the sauce and toss to coat.

In a small baking dish, layer the spinach-mushroom mixture, pasta with sauce, and the faux ricotta, sprinkling in Vegan Parmesan Topping over each layer of faux ricotta. Feel free to sprinkle liberal amounts of your favorite spices into the dish as well, if you like. End with a layer of faux ricotta with Vegan Parmesan Topping sprinkled over it.

Cover the dish and bake at 375F for 30 - 35 minutes. Serve with more parmesan topping, if desired.

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