We all make mistakes. But when you’re a blogger, your mistakes are often preserved in time on the World Wide Web. If no one points them out to you, you can stumble upon them long after they’re made and feel the accumulated embarrassment of years. You may be sitting all alone at your desk yet feel as red-faced as if you’d just belched loudly during the silent meditation at church. Maybe you’ve confused “province” with “providence” and just know that people secretly think you’re an uneducated bumpkin, or you’ve crossed your chopsticks in more than one stir-fry photo and revealed yourself to be culturally insensitive. Or maybe you’ve managed to mangle an entire recipe, calling for tomato paste in the ingredients list and tomato sauce in the directions and listing the ingredients in no apparent order and certainly not in the order in which they’re supposed to be used.
That last scenario inspired this re-do of a re-do of an old favorite recipe.
Each day I look back at what I was cooking on the same date in past years and post a reminder on my Facebook page. In late January, I almost posted a link to my Rigatoni with Eggplant and Zucchini, but because the photo wasn’t good and I hadn’t made the dish in a while, I decided to put the recipe on my “to remake” list and reshoot the photo before mentioning it on Facebook. A couple of months went by before I got around to it, and when I took a closer look, I was appalled at how many errors I found. The ingredients were out of order, the directions were out of order, and the tomato paste was transformed into tomato sauce. In nine years, no one had pointed out any of this to me, and I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved that no one had noticed or concerned that no one ever made the recipe because it was too confusing. But I was deeply embarrassed and felt like I had better get rid of the evidence (oh the power of the Edit button!) fast.
However, as I made the recipe, I found that tastes change, and I needed to add much more seasoning than I had before, omit ingredients that I no longer use (dried parsley–does it have any flavor?), and update it in ways that I knew would result in a better dish. So rather than just edit the recipe and add new photos to that old post, I decided to come clean with you about the poor state of my early recipe writing and post the final version of the recipe as a new post. Third time’s the charm, I hope!
This vegan rigatoni casserole is similar to lasagna, yet it uses less pasta and more vegetables than most lasagna recipes. However, unlike lasagna, it doesn’t stay layered when you dish it up, so you don’t have to be very careful when assembling it. It’s just as delicious as lasagna, though, and even my eggplant-phobic daughter loves it.
The Best Rigatoni and Vegetable Casserole
- 8 ounces rigatoni or other pasta
- 1 large zucchini or 2 medium zucchini sliced 1/4-inch half moons
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 bell pepper seeded and chopped
- 1 small or 1/2 medium eggplant cubed
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons water more as needed
- 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes (fire roasted if available)
- 3 teaspoons dried basil divided
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt divided
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 12-14 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu reduced fat, if available
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional or to taste
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (omit to reduce fat, see below)
Boil the pasta according to package directions, cooking until just barely tender (a little undercooked is better than overcooked). When it’s done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta.
While the pasta’s cooking, sauté the zucchini, onions, bell pepper, eggplant, and garlic in 2 tbsp. water in a nonstick pan over medium heat, adding more water if needed to prevent sticking. Cover and cook until onion is translucent and eggplant has begun to soften.
Place one of the cans of tomatoes, including juices, into the blender and puree. When the vegetables are tender, add all tomatoes, the reserved pasta cooking water, 1 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. salt, the rosemary, and tomato paste; stir, and keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Mash the tofu in a large bowl and stir in the nutritional yeast and remaining basil, oregano, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the cooked rigatoni.
Lightly oil a 4-quart casserole dish. Spread a thin layer of the vegetable mixture over the bottom (you just want a little sauce there to keep the pasta from sticking). Place a layer of half the pasta mixture, then cover with half the sautéed vegetables; repeat layers.
Cover the casserole and bake it for 30 minutes. Remove cover and sprinkle with pine nuts, if you’re using them. Bake another 15 minutes.
If you leave out the pine nuts, you’ll reduce the calories to 263 and the fat grams to 2.3 or 20 calories (7%) from fat.
Make it, enjoy it, and if you notice any errors, please let me know!