This is my favorite recipe to make for guests, because of its wide appeal (who doesn't love pasta?) and because it can be made well in advance and baked in the oven while I socialize. My friends and family request this one often - "Make that pasta thing again! Will you? Please?" - and so does my husband. It doesn't require any knife skills, since the only knifework is lopping a lemon in half, which pretty much anyone can do. Another bonus is that all the ingredients (except for maybe that lemon) will keep for a long time in your pantry or fridge, so you can easily have everything you need on hand to make this when company shows up and you don't have time to go to the store.
Baked Pasta with Tofu Ricotta:
Time: 45 minutes
Cost: $7.15 total / $1.19 per serving
You will need:
- 1 pound of small pasta (I like to use whole-grain penne)
- a 24 oz. jar of your favorite pasta sauce (I like Prego)
- 1 package of firm tofu
- a 10-oz. package of frozen chopped spinach
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- red pepper flakes, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
How to do it:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the tofu ricotta and spinach mixture. Cook the spinach in the microwave, according to the package directions. Drain the tofu, place it in a large-ish bowl, and mash it with a fork until it is the consistency of ricotta cheese. Add the nutritional yeast, the juice of the lemon, and the oregano, basil, and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper and taste. It should be salty and slightly tangy, like ricotta cheese. Mix in the cooked spinach, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain it, return it to the pot, add the pasta sauce, and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add red pepper flakes, to taste.
- Lightly grease a casserole dish or lasagna pan (or use nonstick spray). Add half of the pasta-and-sauce mixture to the dish, covering the bottom of the pan. Spread the ricotta and spinach mixture on top of the pasta. Then, add the rest of the pasta on top, spreading it out into an even layer.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the sauce starts to bubble and the pasta on top begins to crisp. Remove from the oven, let cool for five minutes, then serve!
If you want to get really fancy (and not-so-cheap-and-healthy), you could top the whole thing with Daiya cheese before you bake it. It's also very nice served with a green salad and some garlic bread on the side.
For a "fancypants" meal, it's remarkably cheap - just $1.19 per serving. Served with homemade garlic bread, you could expect around $1.50 per serving. Here's the breakdown: