Tom’s favorite food is Italian food. Lasagna. Pizza. Baked ziti. Stuffed shells. When we went vegetarian, nothing really changed. We made sure we got marinara sauce instead of meat sauce and that was that. However, when we saw the light and went vegan, everything changed. Sure, I continued to make Italian food – yummy pasta with red pepper infused garlic oil and lots of veggies, pizza with mushrooms, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes – and yes, we used shredded vegan cheese which attempted to melt. However, we were missing the dishes that used ricotta cheese and we were skeptical about tofu as a replacement (we both didn’t really like tofu for awhile; now we love it). On the bright side, I wasn’t making (and eating) a lot of fattening Italian food.
Still I want to keep my hubby happy so I experimented with lots of recipes and finally came up with a simple version of tofu ricotta that I really liked (and so did Tom). It’s fast and easy to make, doesn’t take a lot of ingredients and it’s filled with healthy, delicious spinach to boot. I’ve used it in lasagna but I try not to make that too often because I’m trying to hit that 100-lb. loss milestone. I have used baked eggplant slices to replace the lasagna noodles and that works wonderfully plus kicks most of the carbs to the curb!
But when I want something that is easier to portion and dish out, eggplant rollatini is the way to go! Everyone gets one or two (or three) individual pieces – no cutting required! This makes it easier for me to not overdo it as I might be tempted to cut the size slice I want rather than the size slice I should have. It is also easier and neater to pack some up for Dear Hubby’s lunch the next day.
The mushroom marinara sauce is the easiest sauce ever. It takes less than 20 minutes to make and tastes like it was cooking all day. I don’t add any sugar to my sauce; I have never found it to be acidic but do what you like. Also, I tend to not peel my eggplant and I don’t salt and drain it either. I have never found the taste to be bitter but again, when it’s your dinner, do what you want. And if you’re lucky enough to have Daiya vegan cheese to use in the recipe, all I can say is I am sooo jealous!! I have yet to taste this magical elixir but I am so looking forward to it.
I served this delicious, yet non-fattening entrée with a side dish of asparagus and grape tomatoes, sautéed in olive oil with onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and a large, green salad.
Now that’s Vegan Italiano! Mangia!
Serves 6-8 (depending how hungry you are)
2 medium size eggplants
Olive oil spray
Spinach tofu ricotta (see recipe below)
Mushroom Marinara sauce (see recipe below)
Salt & pepper to taste
½ cup Vegan mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
Vegan grated parmesan (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the ends off the eggplant. Cut the eggplants lengthwise, into ½-inch thick slices. Arrange eggplant slices onto baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spray with olive oil. Bake until lightly browned on each side and tender, about 15-20 minutes (the 2nd side cooks faster than the 1st side). Remove slices from the oven and allow to cool.
While the eggplant is cooking, make the mushroom marinara sauce and the tofu ricotta.
Mushroom Marinara Sauce
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ medium red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1- 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1- 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (or 2 cans if you like a lot of sauce)
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a medium size saucepan. Sautee onion and garlic a few minutes until softened. Add mushrooms and let brown a few minutes. Add crushed and diced tomatoes and stir. Mix in spices and herbs. Cover and let cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
Tofu Spinach Ricotta
10 -16 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
1 lb. firm tofu
2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 ½ tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried rosemary
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Mix tofu and spinach together in a bowl. Add other ingredients. Mix until fully blended. (You can use a food processor but I prefer to use my hands and play with my food). If you aren’t worried about calories and want to make the tofu ricotta creamier and more decadent, you could add vegan cream cheese, milk (almond, rice, soy), or soy cream.
When the eggplant has cooled, place a tablespoon of the spinach tofu ricotta mixture on one end of the eggplant slice and roll up tightly. Place a light layer of mushroom marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Place the eggplant rollatini into the baking dish, seam side down. Continue with remaining eggplant. Evenly distribute the mushroom marinara sauce on top of the eggplant rollatini. Top with the shredded vegan cheese and bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh parsley and serve. Have extra sauce and vegan grated parmesan available, if desired.
Nutritional Info (for 1 of 8 servings):
110 cal. * 10.9g fiber * 5.8 g fat * 5.2g protein