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.
Nutritional info is approximate.
Make it, enjoy it, and if you notice any errors, please let me know!
AnnaJune 28, 2017 at 9:40 pm
This looks amazing! I will try it out very soon but I wanted to ask:
995mg of Sodium per serving – isn’t that a bit much? Is all the salt really neccessary? I thought the whole point of using canned tomatoes instead of prepreared sauce is to reduce sodium (and oil ) content.
Susan VoisinJune 28, 2017 at 10:03 pm
I use salted canned tomatoes, so you can reduce the sodium a lot by using unsalted ones and reducing or eliminating the salt. It’s salted to appeal to the tastes of people who don’t restrict salt, so you may find it’s not all needed.
Peggy MartinNovember 21, 2017 at 4:39 pm
I made this for my daughter and son-in-law last week. It’s great! I will be making it again, and again! I may add mushrooms and/or spinach.
Linda KeairnsApril 4, 2018 at 1:33 pm
I prepped my veggies last night. I used mushrooms in place of eggplant – just because 😉 Anyway, I haven’t added the tomatoes to the sauteed veggies yet, and there is a LOT of liquid in the veggies (that they released during cooking). I am thinking I should not incorporate all the liquid – I am afraid the pasta will get mushy, or it will come out really soupy. Is there a lot of liquid in your veggies after you sautee them? (I water sauteed, and left the lid off, but I doubled the batch and sauteed in a large wide stock pot …)
Susan VoisinApril 4, 2018 at 2:06 pm
I do wind up with some liquid, which is why I undercook the pasta a little. If you really think there’s too much, pour off some of it before going to the next step.
BridgetApril 29, 2019 at 6:01 pm
Hi Susan, I just made this for dinner tonight and I’m afraid it just wasn’t worth the amount of work and time investment. It didn’t have much flavour and the veggies were kind of squishy, flavourless and looked washed out. The tofu mixture was okay and I will use that part of the recipe in other dishes. I know we all have our own tastes but for me and my family this Is not a keeper.
I have made a few other recipes on your site and have really enjoyed them.
Joedie AlbertJuly 24, 2019 at 3:24 pm
Hi Susan. I just made this for dinner and it is delicious! Easy to make too which is always a plus! Thanks!
CatrinaApril 10, 2020 at 2:29 pm
So the tofu with nootch and spices is “cheesy” and the veggies are like ratatouille….
Sounds delicious 😋 😘
I might add some miso to the tofu mix and I don’t have any eggplant or peppers. but it has been over a week since I went shopping. Running low on lemons too. •sigh*
PattApril 10, 2020 at 3:28 pm
Guess what we’re eating for dinner tonight. I’m curious I’ve not heard of fire roasted tomato’s don’t think they are available in New Zealand, so I’ll just go with ordinary ones. Kia kaha /be strong in these trying times Susan and family..
Susan VoisinApril 10, 2020 at 4:29 pm
You too, Patt!
RUTH BAYNARD WHITINGFebruary 7, 2021 at 11:54 am
Going out of town and my friends are brining a meat version of this.
Can I make ahead and freeze?
Susan VoisinFebruary 7, 2021 at 8:27 pm
I’ve never frozen it. Chances are, it will be ok but not as good as fresh.
Lauralyn ChrisleyApril 25, 2022 at 4:35 pm
Thanks for this delicious recipe! I made it as written but used fresh spices.
MichelleMarch 8, 2023 at 2:19 am
I came across the old version of this recipe tonight – I had it printed (years ago) and saved to try sometime. That sometime was tonight! I used cavatappi noodles because they are so fun. 🙂 I don’t like pine nuts all that much so I used a mix of crushed pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds. I added more nooch because I like it so much and I probably should have used the can of crushed tomatoes instead of 2 cans of diced. I also added some crushed pieces of dried porcini mushroom for umami flavor. But overall, I feel like it came together easily and now I have meals for days! I call it lasagna surprise b/c Surprise! It’s NOT lasagna! 😂