I recognize that it is not hearty pasta bake season. And yet still, somehow, I have made this bubbling casserole twice in a week (and I'm eating some leftover right now at 8:45 AM on June 26th - I'm pregnant and looking at food photos, okay?) It is just such a simple crowd pleaser. And this past weekend, out in the desert to visit Paul's family there was a crowd to be pleased. With new babies (the niece, this one's not due til September) to be snuggled and stories to be shared and many, many back issues of food magazines to be read, I did not want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. So, I came with my giant tub of cashew ricotta and my jar of sauce and my bag of pasta, and all that was left was for Paul, despite the fact that we were there to celebrate father's day, to assemble it. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love that dude?)
After lots of running around and ducking of father-son water wars and playing toddler rules pool, there was a gaggle of hungry cousins and aunts and uncles and a nana and tapa to devour this super simple pasta dish.
Baked ZitiWay easier than lasagna, but packing that same crowd-pleasing punch, this will serve 6 - 8.1 lb. tube pasta (such as ziti, penne, or rigatoni)2 1/2 c. tomato sauce (psst, that's how much is in your favorite jar)1 c. cashew ricotta (see recipe below)olive oiltopping:1/4 c. bread crumbs2 T. nutritional yeast1/4 t. salt1 T. olive oilHeat oven to 400 and smear some olive oil around a 9 by 13 inch casserole dish. Boil pasta until just al dente. In a small bowl, stir together ingredients for topping and set aside. Toss cooked and drained pasta into prepared casserole dish. Pour in tomato sauce and cashew cheese. Stir gently to coat pasta while still leaving pockets of cheese in tact. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on top. Cover and bake 25 minutes, until heated through. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes.
Cashew RicottaThis is the same cheese you made for the fig topped pizza last fall. And if you didn't listen to your mom and make that pizza, well figs are getting ripe again, and I did already tell you to double the recipe, right? Also, I'll mention again that this recipe is adapted from my favorite vegan cookbook, Nonna's Italian Kitchen by Bryanna Clark Grogan.
1 (12.3 oz.) box firm silken tofu
1/3 cup whole raw cashews
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 t. salt
Grind the cashews in the food processor until very fine. Add the tofu, lemon juice, and salt, and process until smooth.