Thursday, May 26, 2011
One of the things I've been trying to do lately is cut back on the packaged vegan "meats" and "cheese." This is partly because I've been wanting to cut down on the amount of processed foods we consume, and partly because since I've been pregnant, they just haven't really appealed to me at all. Especially Daiya cheese. The very distinct smell of Daiya just kills me right now. I have eaten it a couple of times - once on a pizza at John's of 12th, and recently on a panini I got from Whole Foods - and it still tasted good to me, but I just can't bear to open up the package and smell it. Instant heaves.
This current condition motivated me to crack open my copy of The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, which I have to admit I have had for some time but hadn't tried any recipes from it yet. The recipe for Baked Stuffed Shells immediately caught my eye and I was surprised at how easy the instructions seemed. Stuffed shells is one of those great dishes to have when company comes over, because it looks impressive and like you did a lot of work, and nobody needs to know that it's actually fairly easy to prepare.
One thing I will say is that I was a little concerned when I saw that the filling included vegan mayonnaise... I don't know, maybe I was just imagining the regular, eggy mayonnaise baking inside some pasta and it was making me want to hurl. I had to keep reminding myself that vegan "mayo" is an altogether different product, and I should keep an open mind and follow the recipe as instructed before making any judgements. I'm really glad I did because this filling was so rich, creamy, and convincingly ricotta-like. I truly believe that you could fool people with this one. There was nothing "vegan" tasting about it.
The directions are simple to recap for you: just boil 16 large pasta stuffing shells as instructed on the box. In a large bowl, combine the following: 1 lb. regular firm tofu, mashed; 2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise; 2 tsp. dried parsley; 2 tsp. dried basil; 2 tsp. onion powder; 1 tsp. garlic powder; and salt and pepper to taste. Mash everything together into a thick paste. Spoon about 1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. of the filling into each shell. Pour about a cup of your favorite tomato sauce on the bottom of an oiled 9" x 13" baking dish and arrange the shells in a single layer on top of the sauce. Spoon 4 -5 cups of tomato sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with vegan Parmesan and bake at 350 for 30 - 45 minutes.
I did happen to have a little bit of Follow Your Heart mozzarella in my fridge, so I grated that on top in addition to the parmesan. Follow Your Heart has a much milder smell than Daiya, so it didn't make me nauseous, but it also doesn't melt (or taste) like Daiya does, as you can see in the picture. It probably didn't need the extra cheeze on top and I think I would probably just stick with the parmesan next time I make these.
I wish I had taken a picture of the filling for you, but to be honest I made these on Sunday and just wanted to get them in the oven so they'd be ready before our Sunday night shows (Game of Thrones and The Borgias, if you're interested). But like I said, the filling was incredibly creamy and flavorful. Rich but surprisingly not heavy. Utterly addictive. We definitely stuffed ourselves with these and can't wait to make them again.