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Creamy Baked Pasta

I bought this package of nutritional yeast awhile ago, and have been itching to try it out ever since.

Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast, so it is not the active baking yeast one uses for breads. It is grown specifically for its nutritional value. And it has an impressive roster of nutrients and vitamins! Especially rich in B vitamins and protein, it is a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets.

I decided to try out Angela’s Vegan Mac n’ Cheese recipe over at Oh She Glows. I also took elements from Ashley’s adaptation of this recipe on The Edible Perspective. I didn’t follow either versions to the letter, mostly because I didn’t have almond milk on hand, so my version isn’t even vegan. Whoops. But the result was a very tasty, creamy baked pasta that my family loved! It has a bit of a cheesy flavour, but it’s obviously not exactly like what you’d expect mac n’ cheese to be, especially in texture.

But I totally enjoyed it, and am so happy to have found this recipe. I actually looove creamy pastas, but I never have them anymore. And it’s not just cuz they are not good for my waistline, but because my digestive system can’t handle the richness of all that cream and cheese. I can’t even drink 2% milk without getting an upset stomach (I have to stick to skim). I have tried some low-fat versions of alfredo sauces, but have never found a satisfying one…until now! I think the cashews and nutritional yeast add a wonderful depth and richness to this sauce that makes me not miss the cream and cheese.

This is what I used:

  • 1 medium yukon gold potato, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 300 g whole grain fusilli
  • 1.5 C raw, unsalted cashews
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.75 C skim milk
  • 1 TB non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TB nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 heaping tsp yellow mustard
  • 1.5 tsp ground oregano
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 C frozen green peas (optional)
  • 1 slice whole grain bread
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

 

Preheat oven to 350°.

Put potato, carrot, and onion in a medium pot with enough water to just cover the vegetables.

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, until veggies are tender. Most of the liquid will have been absorbed by this point. If there is still liquid in the pot, uncover and cook a further few minutes until it’s mostly gone. Turn off heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions on package, undercooking it by about a minute so that it is just slightly firmer than how you generally like it (as it will continue to cook in the oven). Drain and put back into the pot.

While pasta is cooking, prepare the breadcrumb topping by processing the slice of bread in the food processor for a few seconds. Remove from food processor and set aside.

Process the cashews in the same way until they have a similar texture to the breadcrumbs, then add the garlic, milk, margarine, lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast, mustard, oregano, and pepper. Give the food processor a good whirl until it is all combined and smooth. Then add the potato/carrot/onion mixture and process until smooth.

The sauce will be somewhat thick and super tasty!

Pour the sauce into the pot with the drained pasta. Add the frozen peas (if using) and stir to mix. Transfer to a sprayed casserole dish and sprinkle with paprika. Don’t be alarmed if there seems to be a lot of sauce; it will get absorbed in the oven.

 

Does that not look totally dreamy?? :-) I think next time, I might skip the oven and breadcrumbs and just eat it as a creamy alfredo-like pasta.

But if you want a baked pasta, then pop it into the oven for 30 minutes. Then top with the breadcrumbs and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy. Watch carefully that it doesn’t burn!

 

Mmmm. :-) Yay for creamy pastas that my stomach won’t protest!

(On a side note, those last two photos were taken tonight, while the rest were all taken during the daytime. What a difference in quality and lighting! I wish I could’ve cooked the dish completely during the daytime so I could have better photos, but I wanted it freshly baked for this evening’s dinner. So I cooked it up to the point right before the oven, then popped it into the fridge. Then I jetted off to work and my mom was the one who finished the oven and breadcrumb steps tonight. Yummy, fresh dinner, but crappy photos. Ah well.)

 

Posted by on January 12, 2011 in Kitchen Adventures

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Winter Wonderland

It’s exactly one month away from Christmas Day! 

To get us all in the holiday spirit, Mother Nature presented us with a winter wonderland! 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you see that little bug in front of the tree? 

 

Somehow, he got on top of that thick blanket of snow and was wandering around on it. I felt a bit sorry for him. 

 

But then I remembered how his kind had taken over one of the basement suites I used to live in, and then I didn’t feel so sorry for him anymore. So I continued on with my photo shoot… 

 

 

 

 

 

And by the time I was finished with my photo shoot, it had stopped snowing, so I got to work on shoveling our walkways and sidewalk. I think it counts as my cardio for the day! :-) 

For dinner, I made a hearty vegetarian meal, featuring Roasted Vegetable Pasta and Baked Tofu, served with a side of steamed broccoli. 

The Baked Tofu is the easiest thing ever: 

  • one block of firm or extra firm tofu
  • 4 – 6 TB of your favourite prepared (or homemade if you’re ambitious!) BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 400°. 

Wrap the block of tofu in a couple layers of paper towel, place in a dish, and weigh it down with something heavy-ish to press out some excess liquid from the tofu. (I put a pot on it) Leave for about 10-15 mins. 

Remove paper towels and cut tofu into 1/4 inch-thick slices. 

Marinate tofu in BBQ sauce for at least 10 mins. Make sure all sides of the tofu are covered in the sauce. 

Place tofu slices on a sprayed cookie sheet. (optional: sprinkle with black pepper) 

 

Bake for 12 mins, flip, bake for another 12 mins. The result is a “meaty” tofu texture. Yum.

 

And then the Roasted Vegetable Pasta: 

  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 2 chayotes, cored and cubed (if you’re not familiar with this vegetable, it’s sweet, slightly crunchy, and so yummy; but you can also substitute another veggie, like a zucchini)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 C pasta (I used rotini)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped green onion, cilantro, or parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 500°. 

Place diced eggplant and chayotes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. 

 

Use your hands to toss and coat all veggies with the oil, salt, and pepper. Place onto a sprayed cookie sheet; spread them out in a single layer and be sure not to crowd them. 

 

Do the same thing with the tomatoes (coat with olive oil, salt and pepper), and place in a separate oven-proof dish or pan. 

 

Mmm, tomatoes. 

You can put all the veggies in the same pan if you’re making a smaller amount (mine just didn’t fit onto one sheet without overcrowding). 

 

Roast in oven for 10 – 12 mins for each pan. 

In the meantime, saute onion and garlic in a pan with some olive oil over medium heat until onion is softened and translucent. Season with a little salt and pepper. Set aside. 

Oh, and start the pasta too. 

 

Cook pasta to specified time on the package (ie. don’t forget about the pasta and overcook the noodles like I did). 

When the tomatoes are done they will have split open and smell heavenly: 

 

When pasta is done, reserve about 1 and 1/2 C of the cooking liquid (you’ll need this to add moisture to the sauce). Drain pasta and return to pot. Stir in diced avocado. The heat from the pasta will melt the avocado a bit, but still leave some visible chunks. (I loooove melting avocado in pastas. They provide a lovely creamy texture without having to add any cream! Instead, it adds lots of heart-healthy fat.) Then mix in the sauteed onion and garlic, and all the roasted veggies, including any tomato liquid that collected in the pan. Add a bit of the pasta water as you stir, enough to “loosen” the sauce and add moisture. (You may not need all of the reserved liquid; only add enough to prevent pasta from being dry.) Taste test, and season with more salt and pepper if needed. 

Serve garnished with chopped green onion, cilantro, or parsley: 

 

The roasted veggies had such a rich, deep flavour, and the tomatoes became super sweet. The creaminess and slight nutty flavour of the avocado brought another level of taste and texture to this dish. This one was a winner in our house!  

 

 

Posted by on November 26, 2010 in Kitchen Adventures

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