Kid-Friendly Pasta Bake

This is definitely more comfort vegan than crunchy vegan.  I blame it on watching the Wicked Healthy children’s cooking videos with my son this past week.  It does however, feature much veggie, a quick put-together (for a casserole), and kid-approval (‘this is great for a MOM-meal’).  Consider it my take on Chad and Derek Sarno’s basic methods.

Yield: a 9×13 pan really full or an 8×8 pan really full + a freezer baking dish also really full, 6-8 servings

What you need for the sauce:

  • 2 cups cooked sweet potato (very well cooked and super-soft)
  • 1-1/2 cups water or unsalted vegetable broth
  • a 12 oz vacuum-pack extra-firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu type deal)
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 or 3 hours and drained
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar (if you don’t have ume, miso will work; or use a tablespoon of lemon juice and then add some extra salt to your desired level)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt
  • as much or little pepper as you want

What you need for the casserole:

  • 450g (1 lb) whole grain or gluten-free penne, cooked al dente
  • 2 or 3 cups of cooked brussel sprouts, quartered (or you could use some leftover cooked cauliflower or broccoli florets)
  • 2 cups frozen green beans, in little pieces (or you could use frozen peas or carrots)
  • 1 cup frozen corn (or more frozen peas or carrots – this casserole is pretty darned forgiving)
  • 1 recipe of the sauce, about 4 cups
  • panko or breadcrumbs to top the casserole with crunch (optional)

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Put all the ingredients for the sauce in a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth and silky.  If you have a regular blender, no worries, it will work too – you’ll just have to blend quite a bit longer and take some breaks to give your blender time to breath.  Persist and the silky smooth sauce will still happen.
  3. Cook the pasta al dente and drain.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, put all the vegetables in a really big bowl.                   IMG_4406
  5. When the pasta is done, add it to the veggies and then pour the sauce on top.       IMG_4407Blend everything together well and turn it out into your glass or enamel baking dish of choice (see Yield at the top for choices).
  6. If using the panko or breadcrumbs, sprinkle a generous layer over the finished casserole.                                                                                                                               IMG_4408
  7. Bake, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, until the filling is hot and bubbly and the top (crumbs) nicely browned.                                                                                       IMG_4412
  8. Let cool about 10 minutes to set a little before serving.

Variations:

  • If your kids (or you) like garlic, feel free to add some raw or roasted garlic cloves (2 to 4 should do it) to the sauce when blending;
  • The sweet potatoes can be swapped out for carrot, rutabaga or squash.  Or for a white sauce, use cauliflower.  Or a sweet white sauce, use parsnip.
  • Mix the breadcrumbs to top the casserole with some cajun spice and/or cayenne if you’d like added heat.  (For that matter, a jalapeno or chipotle in adobo in the sauce wouldn’t hurt either.)

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