Belated Happy New Year!
If your holidays were as hectic as mine were – followed by a seemingly endless string of days of bone-chilling temperatures – you may be looking for a fresh take on a comfort food favorite.
One of my all-time favorite comfort foods is baked ziti – but for a simple, homey dish it has always been fairly time intensive.
By using raw pasta (that’s right, raw, uncooked, pasta) cooked in homemade veggie-rich marinara, you can completely eliminate the process of boiling your ziti.
Skeptical? I was, too.
No Evil Foods has recently done a major re-vamp of its website and its packaging. I absolutely love this Asheville-based company – not just because it’s located in North Carolina – but for its unabashed support of the concept that eating plant protein is a major way that we can all fight climate change. Here are some clever excerpts from The Stallion’s new packaging:
PROTEIN FOR ALL. IN PLANTS WE TRUST!
FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE. EAT PLANT MEAT!
And then, when we open the package, our friends at No Evil Foods give us some concrete info about how eating plant meat can shrink your carbon footprint – even if each of us only took meat off our plates one day a week for a year!
Another great thing about No Evil Foods is the purity and simplicity of their product ingredients. Some of my readers have objected to the concept of plant protein products in general because they are “processed food.” (Well, actually so is bread or tempeh or yogurt or cheese or mayo or mustard or lots of other things we commonly eat rather than making every single thing from scratch.)
So check out the ingredient list in The Stallion:
Vital Wheat Gluten, Filtered Water, Organic Red Kidney Beans, Organic Shoyu, Chickpea Flour, Nutritional Yeast, Sea Salt, Organic Smoked Paprika, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Chili Flakes, Organic Fennel Seed, Organic Thyme, Organic Rosemary, Organic Cayenne, Organic Black Pepper.
And the very best thing about The Stallion? It tastes so much more like “real” sausage than some of my other plant meat favorites, that if I can consistently find The Stallion at Whole Foods, it will definitely become my new go-to vegan Italian Sausage.
Assembling this dish is pretty simple once your marinara is made. I often double a batch of sauce and freeze half – but if that isn’t an option, use a good quality jarred marinara if you are really pressed for time. (Although I like Harris Teeter’s Organic Marinara, I know that it may not be available in your part of the world. Cook’s Country recently ran an excellent article on jarred marinara sauce, so you may want to check out their suggestions.) Just make sure the sauce is nice and piping hot before you start assembling your baked ziti.
Spread half your raw ziti in a greased baking dish and sprinkle on half of your sliced sausage.
Then add half of your fresh mozzerella (mine, of course, is from my buddy Zack Gadberry at U.A.V.). . .
And then half of your sauce. (That’s actually a quarter of the sauce below – I just took a quick photo before I poured on the rest of the sauce so that there was a bit of visual contrast!)
Repeat the layers again ending with the marinara on top.
Now, pour boiling salted water over the top of the marinara, cover the baking dish with foil, and pop it into a 400 degree oven for an hour.
After an hour, take off the foil and let it cook for another 10 minutes until all the water is completely absorbed and the pasta is tender. Bring your very hot pyrex or ceramic baking dish out of the oven onto a trivet or cooling rack and let it cool for at least 5 minutes before sprinkling it with some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and some chopped Italian parsley.
To round out our meal, we served our baked ziti with oven roasted cauliflower which I put in during the last 30-40 minutes of cooking.
So not only is Justin Chapple a certified genius for his brilliant raw pasta tip, but I honestly think that the nice folks at No Evil Foods are geniuses, too.
You gotta love a revolutionary maker of vegan plant meat who proclaims this forceful message as its “battle cry” on the back of its package:
We loudly proclaim: ‘Do No Evil!’ as our Battle Cry in the food revolution. Every bite supports our cause: to use food as a force for good. Small batch, sustainable, simple & kind. The passion of a home cook meets the spirit of revolution. PROTEIN FOR ALL!
- 4 cups organic marinara sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin organic olive oil
- 1 large organic yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves organic garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 stalks organic celery, minced
- 2 organic carrots, minced
- 2 organic zucchini, minced
- 28 ounce can organic crushed tomatoes with basil
- 2-3 organic tomatoes, chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3-4 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped (divided use)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. box ziti
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or shredded into pieces
- 12-ounce package (4 links) The Stallion, Italian Sausage by No Evil Foods, casings removed and sliced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups boiling water
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- If you are super pressed for time, heat 4 cups of organic marinara sauce in a saucepan. However, if you have the time to make your own veggie-rich marinara in your slow cooker, begin by heating the olive oil, and sautéing the diced onion for 6-8 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, followed by the celery, carrots, and zucchini, which should collectively cook for about another 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, chopped fresh tomatoes, white wine, and the optional fennel seeds and red pepper flakes. Cook for at least an hour on the stove top or simmer on low in a slow cooker for at least 4 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning with about half the chopped parsley, salt, and pepper.
- Spread half your raw ziti in a greased 9” x 13” Pyrex or ceramic baking dish, followed by half of the sausage, and half of the torn or shredded mozzarella.
- Pour on about half of your hot sauce and repeat.
- Add ½ teaspoon of salt to the boiling water. Pour the salted hot water over the top, cover the baking dish with foil, and pop it into a 400-degree oven for an hour.
- After an hour, take off the foil and let it cook for another 10 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the pasta is tender. Bring it out of the oven and let it cool for at least 5 minutes before sprinkling it with a light dusting of grated parmesan and the rest of your chopped parsley.
- Please note: The cooking time below is if you have marinara sauce on hand (either your own or jarred). If making your own marinara, add the appropriate amount of time depending on whether you are simmering it on the stovetop (about an hour) or using a slow cooker (about 4 hours).
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