Tag Archives: basil

Vegan Baked Ziti

Cold weather always makes me want to bake something.  Something warm and aromatic and comforting.    Something your grandmother might have made for the family.  Something that feels like a hug and tastes like a whole lotta love.  I give to you the perfect answer:  Baked Ziti!


I had never made baked ziti even before becoming vegan, and never had a grandmother make it for me.  But for some reason, the squat little rigatonis in my pantry thought that’s what they should be.  Who am I to argue with cute pasta?!  To the Google!  A few short clicks later, I had two recipes to inspire me; one classic, and one vegan.  Here’s what I came up with:


For the ziti:

  • 1 pound short tubular pasta, such as rigatoni or penne or ziti, prepared according to the package
  • 1 pound vegan sausage  (I used Gimme Lean brand–very sausage-y)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped  (I had chopped bells from my garden in the freezer and used them)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar prepared marinara sauce  (I had most of a jar leftover from making pizza)
  • Vegan Parmesan for topping

For the cashew ricotta:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours in enough water to cover them by at least an inch
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP of fresh basil or 1 1/2 tsp dried
  • a couple shakes of paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400F and spray a 9×13″ pan.  Prepare pasta according to the package.

Drain cashews and place in a food processor with lemon juice, garlic, basil, paprika, and salt.

all in the processor

Blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.  This should take 3-5 minutes.

blend until smooth

Brown the sausage.  It can be hard to tell when vegan sausage is brown.  Cook, breaking up with a spoon or spatula until it doesn’t feel sticky anymore.  Use a splash of veggie broth or No Chicken Broth (my personal fav) to help keep it from sticking to the pan.

brown sausage

Add onions and peppers and cook until onions are transluscent, about 5-7 minutes.

add onions and peppers

Add tomatoes and marinara, stir to combine.

add tomatoes and sauce

Add cooked pasta and cashew ricotta.  Doesn’t that ricotta look amazing?!

add pasta and ricotta

Stir to coat the pasta evenly and transfer to the prepared 9×13 pan.  Shake some vegan Parmesan over the top.

spread in pan

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the top pasta is getting a tiny bit crisp.


Scoop out with a serving spoon and get your smile on.  You’re gonna feel like your Grandma stopped by with a warm apron-wrapped hug and some pasta to show how much she loves you.


Just the thing when winter comes a-callin’.


It snowed almost 6 inches the night I made the ziti.  We were expecting a dusting to MAYBE an inch.  Brrrrr!  It sure was pretty, though.







Our crab apple trees looked just lovely, and leftover ziti was a perfect warm-me-up after playing outside in the snow.


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Filed under comfort food, dairy-free, Garden produce, lunch, Potluck, recipe, vegan, Vegetarian

Barb’s Pesto

My neighbor Barb is one of the reasons I’m vegan.  She and her family have been low-fat vegan for a while and finally convinced Michael and I to give it a try.  We did, we’re more healthy, we love it!  Low-fat vegan cooking is a whole new beastie, when you’re used to olive oil and cheese and eggs.  Barb is my go-to girl when I have questions like, “but how do you saute?”  I love basil and make pesto every summer to preserve that lovely summery flavor all winter.  But pesto has cheese.  And oil.  So, I went to Barb with a “but how do you…” question and of course, she had the answer.  So yummy, so fresh.  And an added bonus–no nuts!  Barb’s allergic to tree nuts, so naturally, she makes her pesto without them.  How could it be yummy without oil and cheese and nuts?!  See for yourself:


Here’s what you’ll need:


  • 8-12 cloves of garlic, depending on the size and how much you like garlic, minced
  • juice of 2 limes (2/3 cup)
  • juice of 1 lemon (1/2 cup)
  • garlic salt to taste, or just regular salt–again, depends on your garlic tolerances  🙂
  • 1 bag (16 oz) frozen corn, thawed
  • black pepper to taste
  • enough fresh basil to fill your processor

Place everything in the bowl of a food processor with the chopping blade in place.

all in the processor

Process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed.

process til smooth

To freeze for later, place 1/2 cup pesto into containers–I use snack size ziplocs and then place them into a labelled freezer bag.

package to freeze

Or, enjoy right away:  on pasta, with crackers, with veggies, on a yummy garden-fresh tomato….


What do you like to eat pesto with?

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Filed under Canning and preserving, dairy-free, dinner, food gifts, Garden produce, lunch, recipe, salad, side dish, Vegetarian

Peach, Apricot and Basil Popsicles

Summer.  Hot days, the sound of lawn mowers, smell of fresh cut grass and barbeque, kids running through sprinklers, and popsicles!  Not just any popsicles, but frozen treats made with fresh summer fruits and herbs.  Easy-peasy, uber-yummy, (healthy!), hot weather relief.  Ahhhhhhhh….

If you’re lucky enough to have farmer’s markets in your area, head on out to select your favorite summer fruits.  I decided on peaches and apricots.  An online search resulted in basil being a nice compliment to these stone fruits, so out to the garden for a handful of fresh basil and I was halfway to popsicle nirvana!  My molds hold 1/2 cup each, so amounts given are for that.  Adjust the recipe for your own molds–small dixie cups and craft sticks work great.  I got these super-cute little bug molds at Pier 1.  Gotta love their little leaf-with-a-bite-out-of-it stands!

  • 2 small peaches, the riper the better, pitted, peeled and sliced
  • 4 apricots, the riper the better, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup, infused with 16-20 basil leaves.  (Simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water, boiled and cooled.  I used 1/2 cup each and had left over, which keeps in the fridge for quite a while.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Prepare your simple syrup, pour into a seal-able container with the basil leaves.  Gently muddle (crush) the leaves to release the oils, seal and allow to cool.  Of course, while basil is super yummy here, it’s optional.  You can just leave your simple syrup, well, simple.

When your syrup is cooled to at least room temperature, prepare the peaches and apricots and plop them in your blender.  Peaches first, because they tend to be juicier–the better to blend, my dear.

Puree to a smooth consistancy and add lemon juice and simple syrup (strain it if you used basil).  Puree a bit longer.  You’ll end up with 2 cups of puree.

Pour into popsicle molds.  Fill them to the brim.  Add the sticks and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Remove from the freezer (Ooooo!  Frosty and cold!) and run the molds under warm water until the molds come loose.

Oh my.  Time to take a break from the heat in the yummiest way ever!

The basil was just barely noticeable in these pops.  I’ll be upping the amount of basil next time–my 16 or so leaves were actually in a bit over 1/2 cup of syrup.  I can’t wait to try different fruit-herb combos, and maybe blend in a bit of yogurt, leaving some fruit chunks in the puree, making layers????  Oh the possibilities!

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Filed under dairy-free, dessert, Garden produce, recipe