Baked Ziti with Tofu Basil ‘Ricotta’

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

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