Saturday, July 27, 2019

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Bake

Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake is a gluten free (thanks to Barilla Pasta) and vegan comfort food casserole for tonight or freezing for later!

The abundance of traditionally "spring" veggies in my Canadian summer garden makes me long for the days of sunny ripe tomatoes fresh off the vine. All my greens are lush and a mainstay of my lunches - spinach, heirloom lettuce and mustard greens to be exact - but the tomatoes are a mid-August crop. Luckily, I do have a stock of canned tomato products at my disposal, and while I was contemplating dinners I spotted a can of artichoke hearts next to them. Inspiration struck, combining the flash-frozen garden spinach with the various canned tomatoes and artichokes to create a hearty yet light on the stomach pasta meal. For protein, I whipped up one of my favourite things to make with silken tofu - a faux "ricotta" that lent the coveted creamy texture to the "spinach-artichoke dip" feel of the recipe and added a hint of cheesy saltiness as well. While mom is not gluten free (I've mentioned several times how much she adores bread) I had some delicious gluten free penne to cook up anyways so I used it here too.

The first forkful definitely captured the feeling of Summer produce for me, especially the sun-dried tomatoes I found in the back of my pantry from last year! Their sweet, almost raisiny goodness brought a delightful taste and texture into play that worked with the brightness of the tomatoes and the slight salty tang of the tofu.

Here's the thing - I love dried tomatoes, and I do make my own at the end of the summer when our grape tomatoes come due for picking. However, the cost of them in the grocery stores (and even in the bulk bin) can be prohibitive. Nate Teague writes for a number of cooking related websites, including Cuisinevault – a site that helps home chefs learn about cutting techniques, ingredients, recipes and much more. In one of his posts, he provides a handy list of options for when you don't have (or can't / don't want to procure) sun-dried tomatoes. Obviously, not every option will work seamlessly, and his article admits that, but gives you a variety of options for almost every application I can think of!

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Bake
Inspired by The Vegan Harvest
Serves 8

Tofu Ricotta
1 (10 - 12 oz) package of extra firm silken tofu
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp nutritional yeast
½ tbsp lemon juice

12 oz short-cut pasta (I used Barilla Gluten Free)
2 cups prepared tomato sauce
¾ cup sun-dried tomatoes (drained and blotted if oil-packed, soaked and drained if dry-packed)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup vegan mozzarella shreds
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 large onion, diced
⅓ cup fresh basil
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat oven to 375F and grease a 9x13” pan
Tofu Ricotta: 
  1. Mash the tofu with the remaining ingredient using a fork, until smooth curds form.
Pasta and Assembly:
  1. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the directions on the package state. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add the tofu ricotta, tomato sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, half the mozzarella, nutritional yeast, spinach, onion and basil. Season to taste.
  3. Spread in the prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
  4. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. 
  5. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. 
  6. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving 

This post has been sponsored by Nate Teague, who writes for a number of cooking related websites, including Cuisinevault – a site that helps home chefs learn about cutting techniques, ingredients, recipes and much more.

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