I have an incredibly detail-oriented memory, especially for food. I could tell you exactly what I ordered in a restaurant six years ago, or the first time I ever tasted a certain food, but I’m strapped to remember what day of the week it is right now.
The first time I remember having baked ziti was in 2007. My parents were religiously devoted to The Sopranos and wanted to make a night of the much-anticipated series finale. And what better way to celebrate the end of the uber-italian mob classic than with a classic baked ziti? So, I cooked some pasta, mixed it with mounds of mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta, and tomato sauce, threw it in the oven and awaited the formation of a gooey, bubbly, golden brown top. It was absolutely delicious, and became one of our regular meals until I moved out for school.
It’s been a few years since I cooked that dish for my parents and I wanted to reinvent it this week. I probably single-handedly caused every Italian grandmother to roll over in her grave when I decided to get rid of the cheese altogether, all for the sake of experimentation. This ziti is a far cry from the original, but still really delicious
BAKED ZITI WITH TOFU RICOTTA AND GRILLED EGGPLANT (makes 6 servings)
3/4 box rigatoni or ziti
1.5 to 2 cups tomato sauce of choice
1 16 ounce container firm tofu
3-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
8 leaves basil
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 large japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds
Olive oil, for grilling
(Preheat oven to 375)
1. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente
2. Toss eggplant slices with about a tablespoon of oil and a couple pinches of salt. Grill until tender
optional: if using garlic, saute for 2 minutes in a teaspoon of oil at this point
3. Blend tofu, nutritional yeast, basil, and garlic (if using) in a food processor or mash tofu by hand with a fork and add nutritional yeast and finely chopped basil and garlic.
4. Combine about 1/4 of the tofu “ricotta” mixture to the tomato sauce.
5. Drain pasta and add to tomato sauce; stir until coated
6. Pour pasta into a greased baking pan
7. Top pasta with remaining “ricotta” and grilled eggplant
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until top starts to brown