Friday, January 16, 2009

Pasta makes for Easy and Quick Dinners

There are some nights when I just don't have the energy, time or will to be in the kitchen for hours making elaborate, plan-ahead meals. Pasta dishes are my stand-by dishes because they are generally quick and easy to prepare. Here are three of my favorite pasta dishes: Quick and Easy Tomato Pasta with Vegetarian Sausage, Quick and Easy Tofu Balls in Doctored Up Pasta Sauce, and Quick and Easy Lasagna.

1. Quick and Easy Tomato Pasta & "Sausage"
I came up with the recipe when 2 summers ago we were part of a food co-op. We would get tons of the most delicious tomatoes you ever did taste as well as peppers and garlic. Sometimes I really couldn't figure out what to do with all that stuff. This dish can use as much tomatoes as you can stand to chop.

1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 green pepper diced
extra virgin olive oil
oregano, basil, thyme, red pepper flakes
4-5 fairly large tomatoes or 1 large can diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen smoked tomatoes)--or as many tomatoes as you can stand
2 Italian "sausage" links (can be Field Roast Italian or Tofurkey Italian sausage) cut into small pieces or make your own Spicy Italian Vegetarian Sausage* chopped
sun-dried tomatoes
sweet corn (frozen)
broccoli (frozen)
spiral pasta (about 2 cups dry)
1/4 cup minced parsley

Put water on to boil. Boil pasta till firm (not too soft). In a pan, brown the chopped vegetarian sausage in about 2 tbsps. of oil. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a towel-lined plate to drain. Saute onions in remaining oil (you may need to add a touch more oil) until translucent. Add garlic and green peppers till peppers soften a bit. Add about 1 tsp. of each spice and saute till fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes break down a bit. Once tomatoes have let out a lot of their juice, add the corn and broccoli and cook till they've defrosted. Cut up sun-dried tomatoes into really small pieces and add to the pan. Turn off the heat. Drain pasta. Add lightly browned "sausage" to the pan. Add the drained pasta. Toss everything together well. Add salt to taste. Top with fresh minced parsley.

*I make my own sausage at home. It's very simple once you get the hang of it. The recipe makes 8 and since we don't really eat them a lot, I freeze half and keep half in the fridge.

2. Quick and Easy Tofu Balls (adapted from Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler)
These tofu balls are great on top of pasta but they also make a great sandwich or finger food. Play with the spices to make a curry tofu balls or chili-powder/cumin tofu balls.


1 lb tofu
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/8 cup dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 4 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp oregano
1 tsp veggie broth powder (I use the one from Vogue Cuisine as it's the only brand without MSG)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 350. Place all ingredients in food processor and process until the mixture makes one solid ball (see picture). Form the mixture into 1" balls. Lightly spray all the balls with olive oil.* Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes turning after every 10 minutes.
*I have a Misto oil sprayer which allows me to use any oil as a cooking spray. I just fill the bottle with the oil of my choice and use like Pam or any other commercial cooking spray.

Doctored Up Pasta Sauce
Tofu Spaghetti Balls go very well with Doctored Up Pasta Sauce. Doctored Up Pasta Sauce is basically store bought sauce that I "treat". Here's what I do.

You'll need:

One jar of store-bought pasta sauce (I use Trader Joe's Basil Tomato Marinara Sauce--you don't want something too spicy)
one large onion, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic minced
one red pepper diced
one green pepper diced
one zucchini diced
5-6 white mushrooms diced
1/2 tsp each dried oregano, thyme, basil, red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes (or 2-3 tomatoes)
2-3 large plum tomatoes
dash sea salt
dash sugar or maple syrup
1 cup minced fresh kale (optional)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or 1/8 cup dried parsley (optional)

Put water on to boil. Boil pasta till firm (not too soft) and then drain. Saute up the onions for about 2 mins then add the garlic. Stir for 1 minute. Add peppers and spices. Saute 1 minute. Add mushrooms, zucchini, fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, salt and sugar. Simmer about 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Add kale and parsley.*
*The addition of kale and parsley is an excellent way to get greens into little people (and big people) who have an aversion to greens.

Serve over freshly cooked whole-wheat or multi-grain pasta with Tofu Balls on top. Also, Doctored Up Pasta Sauce is good with tempeh sausage crumbles sprinkled on top (I don't like the crumbles mixed into the sauce and it muddies the flavor of the sauce).

3. Quick and Easy Lasagne

You'll need:
4 cups (about 1 jar) store-bought pasta sauce or Doctored Up Pasta Sauce
bunch of fresh spinach or fresh basil
1 box lasagna pasta cooked until al dente

Ricotta Style Filling (from Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler)
1 1/2 lbs. firm tofu
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. dried basil or 2 tbsp. fresh chopped basil
2 tsp. honey (sub maple syrup)
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Run through the food processor till it reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese.

"Meat" filling
1 pkg. Lightlife veggie ground round
1 onion chopped
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt to taste

Saute onions in olive oil till translucent. Add seasonings. Add ground round and saute until lightly browned, adding salt to taste.

To make the lasagne:
Lightly spray 9x13" pan and start making layers
ricotta filling
"meat filling"
fresh spinach or basil
tomato sauce

Cover with foil. Bake at 350F for about 30 mins.

Admittedly, I don't make this often anymore since we don't eat processed soy anymore. You could easily substitute the veggie ground round for ground seitan or even the ground Italian gluten sausages or tempeh sausage crumbles.
These are three relatively quick and easy meals that everyone in my family likes (even Z2 although he likes everything) and looks forward to. With some help from the store (not too much), I can prepare a meal even if I haven't soaked beans overnight or cooked brown rice in the rice cooker.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, working 9-5 I do not have mcuh time to breathe, sometimes. I am going to use the first recipe.

Ms. Diddy said...

GIRL i am STEALING these recipes from you LOL whenever i feel like cooking :)

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