DDD Ep. #112 – Vegan Spinach-Stuffed Eggplant Rollatini with Homemade Arrabiata Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Click the image above to watch the video.

This is a really easy, 5-minute pasta sauce.  It is fairly spicy so cut back on the crushed red pepper if you are sensitive to heat.  Canned tomatoes are not desirable – even BAD – (read why you should avoid canned tomatoes & seven other foods HERE) – but they are sometimes the only affordable (and super convenient) option. .

Fresh herbs will also improve this sauce measurably but – in a pinch –  they are absolutely not REQUIRED to make this sauce tasty.

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Five (5) Minute Arrabiata Sauce

INGREDIENTS

1 27 oz carton tomato sauce
Garlic to taste
1 tsp each of crushed red pepper, oregano, pepper & sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh thyme (optional)
Fresh basil – chopped (optional)
Fresh parsley – chopped (optional)
Fresh oregano – chopped (optional)
1 TBS olive oil
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DIRECTIONS
Heat the olive oil. I sautéed maybe 10 tiny garlic cloves whole. If giant chunks of garlic offend you or yours, you might want to crush them a bit with the side of a knife or press them through a garlic press or chop them fine. Just do not burn the garlic and burning is easier – the smaller you chop the cloves. With whole cloves – I sautéed a minute before adding the spices. If you chopped the garlic – add it and the spices at once.After about a minute of both the garlic and all other spices sautéing – add the tomato sauce. Be careful as it will sputter and splatter you when it hits the hot oil.
A few minutes in – I used a slotted spoon to fish out the garlic cloves & put them through a garlic press but this is not totally necessary.Heat over med-low heat until ready to use. Add chopped fresh basil/parsley at the very end – if you are using fresh herbs.

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Eggplant is an odd thing.  Some of my favorite dishes are made of eggplant – most markedly my nearly guiltless Indian Baingan Bharta & one of the most popular recipes of this blog’s history, my Spicy Vegan Chinese Eggplant – both seen just below.

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But if it is cut into slices or cubes that are too large & then under-cooked – it can have an icky texture & an icky flavor.  Lots of people categorically reject it because the first time they tried it – it was yucky.  But it is so versatile & can take on so many flavors so well.  I love it & I feel certain I could convert more than a few haters – if I served them the right dish.

THIS dish might just be that dish – assuming they do not also hate spinach.   The eggplant is very subtle & melts in your mouth.  This could be customized a zillion ways.  There are no rules.  Just make a little mash of some flavors you like & roll’em up & bake them – and voila!  Yes – there are a few steps but none are difficult & the result is delightful.  A tad hard to photograph but really delicious.

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Oh!  I got this new little garlic press at Bed Bath & Beyond for (I think) under ten dollars & I am kind of in love with it.  There are to ways to go with this – sliced or minced (there is a second blade tucked into the base) & all you do is press the garlic through & it creates a little drawer of crushed garlic for you.  Se easy & easy to clean & no garlic fingers!

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Easy Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach 

Should feed 4

INGREDIENTS

2 medium eggplant – tops removed & sliced 1/4 inch thick (thick makes assembly harder)

1 lb fresh spinach (or 8 oz frozen or other spinach – thawed)

3-4  cups (28 0z or so) – marinara (your favorite brand or homemade or the one I  post below) or my 5-minute spicy arrabiata 

Handful vegan Parmesan

1/2 cup vegan ricotta

1/4 cup parsley – chopped

4 oz vegan mozzarella

S&P

Olive oil

More vegan mozzarella to melt on top – to taste

Parchment paper (if possible but not imperative)

Foil

Garnish: more cheese and/or parsley and/or basil

 

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the tops off the eggplant & try to cut them evenly 1/4 inch thick.  I used a mandolin.  Lay the slices on paper towels & sprinkle with salt.  Flip & salt the other side (lightly – so they won’t be overpowered by salt).  Salting the eggplant helps release excess moisture & can temper any bitterness.  Let them sit for about ten minutes.

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Steam the fresh spinach by simply boiling a tiny bit of water to a very large stock pot & adding the spinach.  Cover the pan.  It should wilt in less than a minute (this works to thaw frozen spinach, too, though it might take longer).  Strain into a colander & run cold water on it.  Squeeze out as much water as you can & chop the spinach.

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Put the spinach, parsley, & your Parmesan & ricotta & mozzarella cheese in a large bowl & blend.  Add some S&P.

 

Pat the eggplant slices dry & sprinkle with ground pepper.  Place them on a cooking sheet covered in parchment paper (or foil treated with cooking spray – because you do not want these guys sticking).  Bake about ten minutes.

Layer some sauce on the bottom of a casserole pan.  Spread about 2 TBS of the filling on each of the eggplant slices.  If you have extra – spread it around.  Carefully roll those guys up & place them in the pan, seam side down.

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Layer some more sauce on top & then sprinkle with mozzarella.  Cover tightly with foil & bake for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven & uncover & let rest a good 5-10 minutes before cutting in.  Serve with more cheese and/or parsley and/or basil and copious red wine.  See?  You like eggplant!

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DDD #104 – Vegan Burnt Sugar Salted Caramel Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image above to watch the video.

Vegan Burnt Sugar Salted Caramel Sauce

INGREDIENTS

1 cup white sugar

3 oz vegan butter

5.6 oz full fat coconut milk or vegan heavy cream

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Over med-low heat, heat the sugar – whisking constantly so it does not burn.  It will start to clump up then eventually melt & start to brown.  Whisk in the butter until it melts then add the milk.  Boil a bit until it thickens.  Add the salt & remove from heat.  Allow to cool.  Store in the fridge.  It should be good for several weeks.

DDD #94 – McDonald’s Copycat – Vegan Filet-O-Fish Sandwich & Tartar Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image above for the video.

McDonald’s Copycat – Vegan Filet-O-Fish Sandwich & Tartar Sauce

for the fishless filets

1 lb block extra firm tofu

1 sheet roasted nori – cut into squares the size of your tofu cakes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or your flour of choice)

Water

1 TBS flaked roasted seaweed

1 TBS kelp granules

pinch salt

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

Panko or other bread crumbs – about 1/2 cup or more

Cooking spray

2 slices vegan cheese

2 buns

for the tartar sauce

1/4-1/3 cup vegan mayo

1 tsp sweet relish

1 tsp chopped dill pickle

1 tsp minced onion

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Split the tofu in half & then press them between paper towels with something heavy on top.  After 20 minutes or so – cut the two slices into squares.

Put panko in one bowl.  In another, whisk enough water in with the flour, flaked seaweed, kelp granules, lemon & salt so you get a thin batter.  Put a square of nori on each tofu cake & dredge through the batter & then the panko – getting all sides covered.  Place on a cooking sheet topped with parchment paper.  Spray with some cooking oil & bake for about 30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden.  Top with cheese & cook until melted.

While they cook, whisk the tartar sauce ingredients together.

When the tofu is golden & the cheese melted, place each tofu cake on a bun & top with tartar sauce.  Enjoy!

 

DDD #93 – Vegan Grated Heirloom Tomato Pasta Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image of me below to watch the sauce recipe WITHOUT the mushroom.  These images here reflect the use of a crazy lobster mushroom I bought when I originally made this recipe.  You need not use the mushroom – in fact – I rather suggest against it because it was very expensive and underwhelming but I include it here, anyway, for the curious & the risk takers.

I went to the farmer’s market for the first time in forever.  Once there, I was reminded of why I no longer go.  IT COSTS A FORTUNE.  Everything seems reasonable until you walk out with fingers screaming from the pain of carrying 400 pounds of produce & $200 poorer.  But it is always fun & there are usually yummy things to sample.  This time there were almond croissants the size of footballs, boxes of mixed mushrooms for $20, some peana & eggphan (I can’t resist misspelled signs).

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There were also golden beets that were larger than a softball and the crazy-looking thing above.  That, my friends, is a lobster mushroom.  It was about the size of a small Russet potato & weighed about 4 ounces.  I asked the mushroom monger what it was & she told me it was a lobster mushroom.  I asked why they were called that & was told that they not only have a reddish color similar to a cooked lobster but also that they have a slight seafood taste.  I had to have one!  I let her pick one out and as she weighed it, I began pulling out ones to pay for it.  I pulled for a while because that fucker there cost me $17!!!  I almost choked at the price but decided it would be a worthy blog post so I paid & walked away – wondering what the fuck I was gonna do with it.

Intimidated by the idea of ruining a $17 mushroom barely larger than my fist, I Googled to see what others had done with them.  I found this gorgeous photo & checked out the recipe at THE COFFEE TABLE COOKBOOK.

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I had the bulk of the ingredients already so I decided to make a vegan version of their FETTUCCINI WITH LOBSTER MUSHROOM AND SCRATCH-MADE HEIRLOOM TOMATO SAUCE.  I simplified the sauce recipe quite a bit but the most interesting thing I learned from their post was the concept of grating tomatoes.  Click that link & see how it is done & how not to grate your flesh into the sauce.  You basically grate the tomatoes on a box grater & it results in a beautiful tomato puree without any skin.  See below.

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I added a lot of crushed red pepper to my sauce which might have been a mistake because the spicy sauce sort of overwhelmed the very delicately flavored lobster mushroom.  The mushroom had only the slightest mushroom flavor & no seafood element at all.   Those photos above are the mushroom cut up.  Looks like chicken or pork – or bread.  It is very light & porous so it reduced to almost nothing in the saute pan.  Overall – I would say there is no reason to pay so much for what amounts to so little.  Regular mushrooms are just as good and far less costly.

I do recommend trying this sauce, however.  I eliminated the dairy from the original recipe & also could not bring myself to add a cup of the precious – a cup of white wine – to the sauce just to cook it off.  I felt the wine would be better used poured down my gullet & I don’t think the sauce suffered and I know I didn’t.

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Vegan Pasta with Heirloom Tomato Sauce & Lobster Mushroom

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb pasta

for the sauce

5 large heirloom tomatoes – grated (see here)

1 TBS olive oil

2 garlic cloves – chopped

1/2 tsp to 1 TBS crushed red pepper – to taste

10 basil leaves (plus more for garnish)

several sprigs of fresh thyme

S&P

IF USING  – for the mushroom

4 oz lobster mushroom (or 1/2 lb regular mushrooms)

2 TBS olive oil or vegan butter

3 garlic cloves – chopped

1 tsp thyme leaves

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DIRECTIONS

for the sauce

Heat the olive oil & add the garlic.  Saute one minutes & then add the other ingredients.  Simmer on med-high until it reduces by about half.  Season to taste.  Remove the thyme sprigs and throw them away.

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for the mushrooms

Heat the olive oil or vegan butter and saute the mushrooms until they are nearly done to your liking.  Add the garlic & thyme & cook another minute or two.  Be sure not to burn the garlic.  Season with S&P.

Cook the pasta as directed & toss with the sauce.  Serve & top with mushrooms & chopped fresh basil.

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DDD #90 – Vegan Fried Sage and Mushroom Cream Pasta Sauce with Orecchiette

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image above to watch the video.

Ok – this pasta.  A Facebook friend requested it & I could not believe I had not already posted the recipe.  This dish is an old regular of mine from 25 years ago & there is a funny story that goes with it.  I used to make it all the time at home & for company & many of my friends had asked for the recipe.  One day, my then boyfriend & I were served a mushroom cream pasta dish at my friend Angie’s.  My boyfriend took one taste & looked at me and said, “Babe!  This is amazing!  You have to ask for her recipe!”

Yeah.  Well – it WAS my recipe.  The only difference was that she added salt to hers & I was still brainwashed into thinking using salt was a capital sin.   I learned that lesson well that day & now I consider salt a genuine ingredient in most things – not just a forgettable & optional seasoning.  There are all kinds of fancy salts widely available now, too, and some even have healthy benefits.  Pink Himalayan salt, for example, boasts these benefits:

(from http://fitlife.tv/10-amazing-benefits-of-pink-himalayan-salt/)

  • Create an electrolyte balance
  • Increases hydration
  • Regulate water content both inside and outside of cells
  • Balance pH (alkaline/acidity) and help to reduce acid reflux
  • Prevent muscle cramping
  • Aid in proper metabolism functioning
  • Strengthen bones
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Help the intestines absorb nutrients
  • Prevent goiters
  • Improve circulation
  • Dissolve and eliminate sediment to remove toxins

So, yeah – use salt.   Salt is not just a flavor unto itself.  It also brings out & enhances other flavors.  Trust me.  Too much is awful but just the right amount is magic.

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Vegan Fried Sage and Mushroom Cream Pasta Sauce with Orecchiette

Feeds 2 very well

INGREDIENTS

1 pound pasta cooked according to package instructions

Olive oil

10 or more fresh sage leaves

1 lb mushrooms (of nearly any variety or mix) – sliced

2 shallots – chopped

3 garlic cloves – chopped

1 cup (or more) vegan dairy (a combo of non-dairy milk & some vegan soft cheese of your choice)

1/4 cup vegan Parmesan

Salt & pepper to taste

Parsley – chopped as garnish (it adds a lot of flavor!)

Extra Parmesan for garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta.  Reserve about a cup of the pasta water (in case you need it to thin your sauce later) & drain the pasta.

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil over med-high heat & fry the sage a few minutes.  It need not brown.  Drain on paper towels.

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Add the mushrooms & about a tsp of salt & raise the heat to high.  The salt will help the mushrooms release their moisture.  Stir the mushrooms occasionally – letting them get seared.  When they are nice & brown – add about another TBS of olive oil & the shallots & garlic.  Fry for about 2 minutes & then add the vegan dairy & Parmesan.   Crumble the fried sage & add that to the sauce.  Bring to a boil & then lower to a simmer.  It should thicken very quickly.  Use more cream & cheese if you want a pasta with more sauce.  Add some pasta water if it gets too thick.   When it is the consistency of a heavy cream sauce – season to taste with salt & pepper.  Add the pasta, stir to combine & serve it up.  Garnish liberally with chopped parsley & maybe more Parmesan.

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DDD #87 – Vegan Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta with Fried Sage

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image above to watch the video.

This is another super easy & healthy one!  I used sweet potatoes but any orange squash would also work.  No dairy in this at all & it still tastes so decadent!  If you own a blender – you can make this in less than 30 minutes.   The sauce can be used as it is here – over pasta – but if you added a bit more stock or some non-dairy milk or vegan heavy cream – you would have a delightful soup!  Or – leave it thick & make ravioli.  Or slather some in a white lasagna.  Mmmmm!

 

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Vegan Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta with Fried Sage

Serves 4 well

INGREDIENTS

1 lb pasta (if you use less pasta – see notes above about how to re-purpose the extra sauce)

2 TBS olive oil

1 package or bunch of fresh sage

1 large sweet potato (2 lbs or so – or 3 cups) – peeled & cubed

1 medium onion – diced

4 garlic cloves – minced

1 TBS (or less – if heat bothers you) crushed red pepper

2 cups vegetable stock

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Cook & drain your pasta – but reserve about a cup of the hot pasta water.  Toss the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking.  Set aside.

Over medium heat – warm the oil in a large saute pan & fry the sage.   Be careful not to burn it (it should not brown in the pan).  After 2 minutes or so – drain it on papers towels & set aside.

In the same pan, add the onions.  Once softened, add the sweet potato, garlic & crushed red pepper.  Stir for one minute & then add the stock.  Bring to a boil & boil until your sweet potato is soft.

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Being careful not to burn yourself, puree the sweet potato mixture.  Season liberally with S&P (to taste).   Put the noodles in the pan you cooked the sweet potatoes in.  Spoon only as much of the sweet potato puree onto it so you get a light cover.  You don’t want to drown the pasta.  I had a lot of puree left over from the 1/2 pound of pasta I cooked & I will make it into soup (see notes above the recipe).  If it gets too thick, stir in some of the reserved pasta water – a bit at a time.

Plate the pasta & crumble sage on it.  Garnish with fresh cracked pepper & maybe some vegan Parmesan.

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DDD #81 – Vegan Eggplant Timbale with Rigatoni in Vodka Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Click the image above to watch the video.

A long, long time ago, I had a boyfriend.  And that boyfriend had – egads! – ex-girlfriends.  One of these ex-girlfriends was (and remains) a famous actress.  A beautiful, famous actress.  She had been reaching out to him to “reconnect.”  My boyfriend at the time announced that he would be having dinner with this ex at some point in the future.  I informed him that I would be attending this dinner myself.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  “Nothing’s going on,” he explained.  “She just wants to get together.  We are friends.”  I explained that, as his live-in girlfriend, his friends should be my friends, too, and asked that if everything was so innocent, why couldn’t he just invite her over to our home for dinner.

It took a bit but I won this debate.  The invitation was extended & then the pressure was on.  ME.  On me because I had to cook the damned dinner – a dinner to impress this chick.  I wanted to impress her with both my culinary skills & with the level of our domesticity.  It was a passive-aggressive counter-attack to what I sensed were not entirely innocent intentions on her part.

This was pre-internet and pre-40 million cooking shows – so I had only my trusty collection of cookbooks to consult for ideas.  After hours of deliberating – I ended up making two dishes I had never made before – always very dangerous if making a good impression is your top priority.  I made a two-color soup much like this one (this one here is not my creation):

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Photo borrowed from HERE.

And I made an eggplant timbale as shown here in this blog.  As fate would have it, my dinner was a huge success & the ex-girlfriend was smart & funny & charming & the two of us were quickly gabbing like old friends, nearly cutting my boyfriend from the conversation completely.

And – for the record, ladies (and gents) – this ex-girlfriend never “reached out” to “touch base” again – to either me or my boyfriend.  So – my instincts had been correct.  She had been perhaps interested in rekindling more than just old times.  But – to her credit – once she met me, she was forever respectful and was never again a threat to our domestic bliss.

So – if you ever need to impress someone or scare off some interested interloper from meddling with your love life – serve them this whopper of a dish.  It is far easier to make than folks guess and it tastes delicious – and it is classier than a slap fight & hair pulling.

Also – as an aside, I bought this fucking gigantic can (I know canned tomatoes are bad but sometimes you gotta bend rules) of tomato sauce for $2.69.  That is practically free!  It makes 12 cups of whatever the Hell sauce you are making.  I made arrabbiata (surprise, surprise) and I froze 8 cups of it & used 4 cups of it to make the vodka sauce in this recipe.

Vodka Sauce – large quantity

INGREDIENTS

2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 small onion – diced

1/2 cup vodka (optional)

1/4 cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves – chopped

1 TBS crushed red pepper (optional)

1 cup chopped basil

1 cup peas – optional

S&P to taste

For a pink sauce (optional) – 1 cup vegan heavy cream or vegan cream cheese

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil & saute the onion until soft.  Add garlic for one minute then add the vodka.  Cook on high a minute & then add the other ingredients, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer for 30 minutes or more.  For a pink sauce – add 1 cup vegan heavy cream or vegan cream cheese.

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Vegan Eggplant Timbale with Rigatoni & Vodka Sauce

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE TIMBALE:

1 pound rigatoni (or other pasta) – cooked & drained

8 oz vegan mozzarella

4 large eggplants

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/8 cup vegan Parmesan

Chopped tomato or chopped fresh parsley or basil – as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Slice the eggplants into 1/4 inch slices.  You can go the long way or the other way – creating round disks.  (OPTIONAL – Place in colanders or on paper towels & sprinkle with salt on both sides.  Let the eggplants drain for about 30 minutes.  This not only helps remove moisture from the eggplant but also minimizes bitterness. I skipped this step.)

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You can either rub olive oil into your eggplant before grilling or you can dip them in an Italian salad dressing – really just to lubricate them so they do not stick to the grilling surface & tear apart.  Grill (a grill pan works, too) the eggplant until they get nice grill marks on one side, turn them & repeat.  Remove & set aside.

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Cook the rigatoni according to the box directions.  Err on the side of under-cooking – as they will cook more in the oven.  Drain the rigatoni & mix in a bowl with cheeses & 2 or more cups of vodka sauce.  Add more sauce if you like a really wet pasta.  You will have extra vodka sauce that you can use to add as a garnish to the finished slices of timbale or to use in another recipe.  It might be nice to have extra sauce for the timbale when you are in the leftovers phase.

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ASSEMBLY-

Grease a spring form pan & then put some bread crumbs & vegan Parmesan inside.  Swirl the pan to coat all the surfaces.  Throw any unstuck bread crumbs/cheese away.

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Line the inside of the pan with grilled eggplant.  You can either do as I did or, if you have circular disks, fan them on the bottom of the pan & then stick some, overlapping, up on the sides.  However you do it – try to cover every part of the pan with eggplant.  Pour the pasta & vodka sauce & cheese mix in – layering in extra cheese, if you fancy.  Top with any remaining eggplant slices.

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Cover the timbale in foil & place some heavy dishes on top & put in the fridge to compress for about 15 minutes.

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Then – bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  Let rest, unmolested, for at least 15 minutes and then put a serving dish on top of the timbale, flip the whole thing over & then very carefully – remove the spring form pan.

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Garnish with either grated Parmesan or extra vodka sauce.