Sunday, 6 July 2014

Low-Fat Vegan Manicotti

       Manicotti can normally be a very heavy and fattening dish, but a simple solution for that is to replace that non-vegan friendly cheese with tofu. If you've never tried cooking with tofu, but want to try lightening up you traditional manicotti, you will not be disappointed with this recipe.

Dad: "You can't tell it's not cheese, this stuff is white."

       I recently made this pasta dish for my parents. My mom's a vegetarian but my dad's a meat eater and although normally harder to please, both he and my mom loved by manicotti! And believe me, if my dad doesn't like something I make him, he isn't shy to say so. But my parents said that they would eat this manicotti recipe over cheese-based manicotti any day (my mom was very happy to hear this). 

Serves: 3-6


8-12 manicotti shells

Pasta Sauce (alternatively, you can use 1-2 jars of your favourite spaghetti sauce)
1/8 cup (3 tbsp) olive oil
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1 large onion, sliced 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp basil 
1 tsp thyme 
1/2 tsp parsley 
1/2 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 jar diced tomatoes 
2 cup tomato purée  
1/4 tsp salt and pepper 
optional: handful kalamata olives, pitted or 1/3 cup marinated artichoke hearts 

1 brick regular or firm tofu
2 tbsp lemon juice 
2 tbsp nutritional yeast 
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp tyme and basil or 1 tsp Italian herb mix
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional 1/4 cup vegan mayo (makes it extra creamy)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced 1 bag spinach (8-10oz), chopped 

Optional Daiya or vegan cheese


Pasta sauce
1. In a large pan or medium sauce pot, on medium heat, warm olive oil and chili flakes. When warm, add the chopped onion, garlic and herbs and sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Toss you mushrooms into the pan and sauté for an additional 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes and tomato purée. 
3. Let simmer on medium-low for 15-20 minutes before tossing in the optional artichoke hearts or olives, and seasoning with salt and pepper.
4. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use.

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove top on high and bring to a boil. When the water reaches a roaring boil add your pasta shapes. Cook until al dente, about 5 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water.
3. Drain and rinse the tofu. Squeeze any excess liquid out of the tofu, then finely crumble into a medium mixing bowl.
4. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, soy sauce and seasoning to the crumbled tofu and mix well.
5. In a large pan on medium heat, heat up a couple tbsp of olive oil and sauté onions and garlic, 5-7 minutes.
6. Once the onion has softened up, toss in the chopped spinach, in batches. You want to cook down the spinach, so cover the pot between batches and stir frequently.
7. Once the spinach is wilted and dark green, add it directly into you tofu mixture. Mix well and add salt and pepper if necessary.
8. Put a thin layer of pasta sauce down in your Pyrex dish (9"x13")
9. Fill your manicotti pasta shells with the tofu mixture and arrange on top of the sauce
10. Pour the remainder of the tomato sauce on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with cheese if using. 
11. Cover with tin foil and poke a hole in the center with a fork to let steam vent out.
12. Bake at 350°F covered for 25 minutes and uncovered for an additional 5-10 minutes until bubbling. 
13. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.