About a month ago Adam and I took the plunge and decided to stop eating dairy. The transition has been much easier than I had anticipated. As we were both vegetarian before making this decision, we haven't been craving meat, but there are some dishes I still reminisce about. A few wise vegan friends have given me the following advice: focus on recipes that are vegan without having to make modifications, because fake cheeses and substitutes often can't recreate what you loved about an old favorite.
Well, this is a recipe that flies in the face of that advice. Vegan Manicotti!
This recipe is so darn good the manicotti was half eaten by the time I could take this photograph.
What you're going to need:
1 package of manicotti noodles
2 packages of tofu (I used soft tofu)
Dried basil (you can use fresh if you're fancy. The basil grown in our garden is the sole property of Bernie, our rabbit).
Lemon Juice, 1 tbsp
2 cloves garlic
1 package of mozzarella flavored soy cheese shreds (optional)
1 cup of chopped spinach (optional)
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
Really, that's it. Pretty short list of ingredients, eh?
1. Heat a big pot of water on the stove to a boil, add noodles. As you're making the filling, periodically check the noodles to make sure they're not sticking on the bottom. They don't have to be completely soft when you drain them because they'll cook more in the oven.
2. While you're waiting for the water to boil and your noodles to cook, you can work on the filling. Drain both containers of tofu over the sink. ***Top Secret Tip*** Put both slabs of tofu on a plate, and put another plate on top. Use sturdy plates so they don't break! Gently press on the top plate to squeeze the excess water from the tofu. Drain and repeat. Before I toss these into a large bowl, I like to hold them over the sink, one at a time, and squeeze them with my hands one last time to get a little more water out. Don't obsess over getting all the water out, because you need some of the water for the filling, but you don't want it to be too watery, either.
3. Chop up your two peeled cloves of garlic as fine as you can. Dump those in the big bowl with the tofu.
4. Add about 3-5 tablespoons, give or take, of dried basil to the bowl.
5. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to your bowl.
6. If you decided to use the chopped spinach, add that now.
7. The fun part! Mix all this stuff together with your hands. Don't even try to keep your hands clean and use a spoon.
8. By this time I bet you've already drained your noodles because it takes awhile to make the filling. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees now.
9. Pour a nice bed of pasta sauce on the bottom of a glass pyrex baking dish. I used the big size.
10. Stuff each noodle with your filling and place it in the pan. It's going to be a snug fit if you boiled the whole box of pasta, which you should always do because these make awesome leftovers.
11. When all the manicotti noodles are in the pan, cover them with pasta sauce. Really cover them up nice so they're moist.
12. Put these bad boys in the oven for about 30 minutes.
13. Take the manicotti out and put your shredded mozzarella flavored soy shreds on top. Put the pan back in the oven for about another 3-5 minutes or until it looks melty on top.