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.
Blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. This should take 3-5 minutes.
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.
Add onions and peppers and cook until onions are transluscent, about 5-7 minutes.
Add tomatoes and marinara, stir to combine.
Add cooked pasta and cashew ricotta. Doesn’t that ricotta look amazing?!
Stir to coat the pasta evenly and transfer to the prepared 9×13 pan. Shake some vegan Parmesan over the top.
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.