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Vegan Pasta Bake - Rigatoni Al Forno

Rigatoni Al Forno

Vegan Rigatoni Al Forno is a delicious and hearty pasta bake that is perfect for a comforting family dinner or a cozy evening at home.

This classic Italian dish typically includes rigatoni pasta, a rich tomato sauce, and a generous amount of melted cheese, but in this vegan version, all the traditional ingredients are replaced with plant-based alternatives. 

The result is a flavorful and satisfying meal that is healthy, sustainable, and cruelty-free. Whether you’re a vegan or simply looking for a tasty meatless dish, this vegan pasta bake is a perfect addition to your recipe collection. 

With a variety of veggie options and cheese alternatives, this dish can be customized to your liking and can easily feed a crowd.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (454 grams) rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can (28 ounces/794 grams) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) red pepper flakes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  •  1 cup (240 ml) vegan cheese shreds (such as mozzarella or cheddar)
  •  Fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

Sauce Preparation

The sauce is the heart of any pasta dish, and Vegan Rigatoni Al Forno is no exception. 

The sauce is simple to make, and it can be customized to suit your taste preferences. You can make it as spicy or as mild as you like, and you can add your favorite vegetables to make it even more nutritious. 

Once the sauce is ready, we’ll toss it with rigatoni pasta and bake it in the oven with some extra vegan cheese on top, until it’s hot, bubbly, and ready to serve.

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • Heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the chopped onion and cook until it becomes translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the chopped bell pepper, zucchini, and sliced mushrooms to the skillet and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
  • Add the diced tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper to taste. Stir to combine all the ingredients.
  • Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the flavors have melded together. If the sauce seems too thick, you can add some of the reserved pasta water to thin it out.
  • Once the sauce is ready, stir in 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the vegan cheese shreds until they are melted and fully combined.
  • Add the cooked rigatoni pasta to the skillet with the sauce and stir to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce.
  • Transfer the pasta and sauce mixture to a large baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup (120 ml) of vegan cheese shreds on top.
  • Bake the pasta for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Once the pasta is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

Cheese Alternatives

Cheese is a popular ingredient in many pasta dishes, but if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, traditional cheese isn’t an option. There are many vegan cheese alternatives that can be used in place of dairy-based cheese to achieve a similar flavor and texture. 

These alternatives are made from plant-based ingredients and can be found at most grocery stores, or you can make them at home using simple ingredients. Whether you prefer a nut-based cheese or a sauce made from tofu or nutritional yeast, there are plenty of options to choose from. 

The best part is that these alternatives are not only delicious but also healthier and more sustainable than traditional cheese.

  • Cashew Cream: Soak 1 cup of raw cashews in water for at least 4 hours, then drain and rinse. Blend the cashews with 1/2 cup of water until smooth, then add the mixture to the sauce just before adding the cooked pasta. The cashew cream will give the dish a rich, creamy texture and a mild, nutty flavor.
  •  Nutritional Yeast: Stir in 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast to the sauce just before adding the cooked pasta. Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty flavor that adds depth to the sauce and helps to thicken it up.
  • Tofu: Blend 1/2 cup of silken tofu with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast until smooth, then add the mixture to the sauce just before adding the cooked pasta. The tofu mixture will give the dish a creamy, cheesy texture and a tangy flavor.
  • Miso: Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of white or yellow miso paste to the sauce just before adding the cooked pasta. Miso has a salty, umami flavor that pairs well with the tomato sauce and adds some extra depth to the dish.
  • Roasted Garlic: Roast 1 head of garlic in the oven until the cloves are soft and caramelized, then mash the cloves and stir them into the sauce just before adding the cooked pasta. The roasted garlic will give the dish a rich, savory flavor and a slightly sweet aroma.

Serving

Once your Vegan Rigatoni Al Forno is cooked, baked and ready to eat, it’s time to serve it up and enjoy. Whether you’re sharing it with friends and family or enjoying it on your own, there are a few things you can do to make the presentation of the dish more appealing and enjoyable.

  • Portioning: Divide the pasta evenly among the plates, making sure to include plenty of sauce and veggie toppings in each serving.
  • Garnishing: Sprinkle some fresh herbs such as basil or parsley on top of the pasta for added flavor and color.
  • Sides: Serve the pasta with a side of garlic bread or a fresh green salad to round out the meal.
  • Leftovers: If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. The pasta can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding a splash of water or tomato sauce to prevent it from drying out.

Savory Takeaway

Vegan Rigatoni Al Forno is a delicious and healthy pasta bake that is perfect for any occasion. This dish is packed with flavorful ingredients like sauteed veggies, plant-based cheese alternatives, and a rich tomato sauce that are sure to satisfy your cravings. 

By using whole wheat pasta and plenty of vegetables, this dish is also packed with nutrients that can provide a range of health benefits. Whether you’re looking for a quick weeknight dinner or a dish to impress your guests, Vegan Rigatoni Al Forno is an excellent choice.

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