Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cheesy Southwest Pasta Bake

With school starting in a few days, it's definitely time to start considering hearty, healthy, make-ahead meals that can be pulled out of the freezer or fridge in the morning and popped into the oven when you hit the front door. Prepping lunches and dinners on the weekend is a great way to keep on top of  time, budget and nutrition, eliminating the need for last-minute runs to the store or driving through for take-out, and once portioned out there's little in the way of waste as well. One of the things I love about batch cooking is the ability to use up the "whole package" - of pasta, cheese, vegetables, cans of beans or tomatoes - that as a single cook I would wind up having to throw away because they went bad before I could use them.

Cheesy Southwest Pasta Bake

The first "mega meal" I whipped up is a variation on a theme - baked pasta. We love the crispy, cheesy, saucy composition of a pan of lasagna, ziti or shells, and since the bulk of the time they take is inactive, it's a great option for a lazy Sunday when all you have to do is prep for classes. To simplify things (and give them a twist on flavour) I went the "southwestern" route this time, using a mix short-cut whole grain pasta, salsa, a four-cheese tomato sauce (with extra cheese for kicks) and roasted red peppers. For protein, I tossed in some soaked Textured Vegetable Protein - not only because it's cheap and I always have it on hand, but because it flavours so well and is both fat-free and high in fibre. Once everything got mixed together and poured into baking pans, I topped the works with Daiya Pepperjack Shreds - obviously the works aren't vegan (but it is vegetarian), but I had Daiya on hand and no other "grating cheese". Besides, the pepperjack Daiya has a way better flavour than dairy pepperjack to me, and flavour is where it's at!

Cheesy Southwest Pasta Bake

Cheesy Southwest Pasta Bake
Serves 10
3 cups TVP granules
2 ¼ cups hot “un-beef” broth
1 tbsp tamari
½ tbsp canola oil
1 small onion, grated
1 ½ tbsp minced garlic
1 large red pepper, roasted and diced
3 large tomatoes, roasted and diced
3 cups cheesy tomato sauce (I used Hunt’s)
2 tbsp Cheddar cheese powder (or Parmesan, or vegan Parmesan)
2 tbsp beet greens or kale powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp coriander
½ cup chunky, spicy salsa
1 lb short-cut whole grain pasta, cooked 2 minutes shy of al dente and drained
12 oz shredded pepper-jack cheese (I used Daiya since I had it, but use dairy if you like) 
  1. Heat oven to 350 F and grease both a 9x13” and a 9” pan.
  2. Place the TVP in a bowl and add the “unbeef” broth and tamari. Let stand while preparing the vegetables.
  3. Heat oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the pepper, tomatoes, sauce, cheese powder, greens powder and seasonings. Cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor, then stir in salsa and soaked TVP.
  6. Combine pasta and sauce mixture, stirring well.
  7. Place mixture in prepared pans, cover, and bake 25 minutes.
  8. Remove cover, top with cheese and bake, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 445.7
Total Fat: 11.0 g
Cholesterol: 5.5 mg
Sodium: 1,193.2 mg
Total Carbs: 65.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 13.9 g
Protein: 25.7 g

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