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Mayim Bialik's Baked Ziti

From Mayim’s Vegan Table: More Than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours by Mayim Bialik with Dr. Jay Gordon. Reprinted courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books. 

This is the dish Mayim makes for non-vegans that they consistently can’t believe is vegan. Puréed tofu and cashew cream mimic mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Whether you make this tomato sauce or substitute a jarred one, the flavors of this ziti are unbelievable. This dish keeps well, so prepare for days of delicious leftovers.

Serves 8

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INGREDIENTS
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 12 ounces ziti pasta (or penne)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil or parsley, chopped, for garnish
  • Herbed “ricotta”
  • 1 1/2 cups raw macadamia nuts, soaked in a bowl of water for at least 4 hours
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Tomato sauce (or use a jar of prepared vegan sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 14-ounce can roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cashew cream
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
PREPARATION

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse, let cool and set aside.

To make the herbed “ricotta,” combine the macadamia nuts, 1/4 cup of water, the garlic, salt and olive oil in a food processor and puree for 1 minute. Scrape
down the sides and purée for another minute, until light and fluffy. Set aside.

To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over high heat, and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic
and herbs, and sauté for another 2 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the salt and cook
for another 15 minutes.

To make the cashew cream, purée the soaked cashews in a blender until a smooth paste forms. Add 1/3 cup of water and the remaining ingredients and
purée until creamy. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. To assemble the baked ziti, toss the pasta with the tomato sauce in a large bowl, and then stir in the herbed “ricotta.” Mix in the
cashew cream. Spread into a 9x13” baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown. Garnish with fresh basil or
parsley, as desired.

Kitchen Tip: The cashews used to make the cheese in this recipe need to be presoaked so they get soft and easy to blend. A minimum of two hours works, but you can also let them sit longer. Harder nuts, such as almonds, should soak overnight.

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