Family Pasta Night is a family tradition that I swooned over as a kid and still get giddy about as an adult. Check out how I give the classic dish Spaghetti and Meatballs a delicious, satisfying vegan makeover in my recipe for Spaghetti and Tempeh Cubes! With homemade Marinara…
Steamy pasta slathered in a rich garlic and tomato-basil sauce, a sprinkle of dusty Parm-style cheese on top – a dish that will bring just about anyone to the dinner table.
Lots of YUM in this post: Get my recipe/photos for Spaghetti and Tempeh Cubes – plus read my “Drunk on Tomato Sauce And Happiness.” essay and get excited about pasta night!
Pasta Night Memories. We ate a lot of pasta in my family. I don’t know if that was because we all loved it so much or because it was one of those rare magical dishes that we could all unabashedly agree upon. Angel hair pasta, also known as Capelli d’angelo, was the family favorite. Chunky red sauce from my mom’s steaming soup pot. Homemade garlic bread always toasting in the oven.
Happy Birthday Dad! Today is my dad’s birthday. And pasta night makes me think of him. Though my mom was the everyday cook in my family, my dad made my sister and I a good handful of pasta when we were kids. Angel hair pasta, red sauce and plenty of Parmesan cheese to go around. That was “dad’s specialty”. I could always count on my dad for making angel hair pasta (my fave as a kid), even when my sister and mom lobbied for spaghetti or linguine. Thanks dad.
Pasta Night 2010. I still love pasta night. I like to get really fancy and choose exotic varieties of pasta I have never even heard of. It’s funny, the one thing my husband seems to know more about than me when it comes to cooking is different pasta names: Pappardelle, Fusilli, Gemelli, Penne, Trennette, Farfelle, Lanterne, Orecchiette or Orzo. He points and names them off like he is Mario Batalli in the Babbo kitchen!
Specialty pasta can be found all over NYC – even at large grocery stores. And whenever my poor hubby groans about getting dragged into Whole Foods on a sunny Saturday afternoon – I simply take him to the pasta aisle to play and he is all good. One site of a rustic-looking whole wheat Gemelli and his eyes light up. Pasta was big in his family too.
Vegan Ingredients. Here is how I veganize pasta night:
1) Vegan Pasta. Read pasta labels to make sure there are no egg or milk products. I try to go for super simple ingredients: whole wheat, water, salt, maybe a few veggie extracts upon occasion for color. But beware of ‘purple’ or ‘black’ colored pasta – the color is usually from squid ink. I love whole wheat pasta or even rice pasta that is gluten free. The nutrition benefits over white grained pasta are substantial: fiber, protein. (although sometimes I crave white pasta, I’ll admit!) Sprouted grain pastas or pastas with added super foods like flax seeds are also fabulous. And if you make your own pasta, good for you.
2) Red Sauce. If I am buying a bottle of sauce on a busy night, I check for ingredients like anchovies, heavy cream, milk, eggs, sausage, butter and other non-vegan ingredients that may be lurking in a perfectly normal-looking bottle of red sauce. Again, simple is usually your safest bet. Tomatoes, EVOO, herbs, salt, pepper. When I have time I love to make my own sauce with a complex combination of fresh and store-bought ingredients.
3) Tomatoes. Read this post to see why I prefer using boxed tomato products over canned tomato products. However, I do use my share of San Marzano canned tomatoes from time to time.
4) Oil in sauce is super important. You may notice a vast price difference between sauces on your grocery store shelf. Ranging from $3 – $10. Read those labels! The cheaper bottles are usually made with SOYBEAN OIL. The more expensive bottles are usually made with extra virgin olive oil. Go with the EVOO! It tastes better and is better for you. Some bottles have a mix of veggie oils and olive oil. Not a bad option – but I prefer 100% EVOO for my pasta night.
5) Cheese. I love broiling some cheese over top pasta for a “baked ziti” feel. I love Mozzarella Follow Your Heart or Italian-white Daiya brand cheeses. I use them both in many of my recipes in my recipe index. For Parmesan cheese I adore Galaxy Nutritional Food’s brand. It tastes delicious and has that dry grainy texture of real Parm cheese. Go for the 100% vegan variety in the purple bottle. There is a Rice Cheese option too, but it is not vegan. My husband loves it too. 15 calories in 2 tsp. It is made from a soy product blend.
6) The __balls. Meatballs are out, tempeh cubes are in! There are several ways to add a boost of protein to your pasta night. My two favorite ways: tempeh cubes, plain and simple. They soak up the pasta sauce and have a light bittersweet flavor that I love. I don’t even saute them before adding to the dish. I simply toss cubed tempeh into the boiling pasta water about 2 minutes before draining. Then I toss the tempeh and pasta with my sauce, pour into a casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese and heat everything in the oven, covered for an additional 20 minutes. My second favorite pasta night add-in: Field Roast vegan sausages sliced thin. I love the Spicy Chipotle flavor best.
7) Veggies! I go crazy adding garden ingredients to my pasta: zucchini, broccoli, olives, mushrooms, onions, capers, eggplant, brussel sprouts, chopped chard, spinach, fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic, roasted garlic, basil, asparagus, bell peppers and more. This is the easiest way to give your pasta a creative twist every time you make it.
Drunk on Tomato Sauce… I recently entered my 500 word essay answering the question “What Does it Mean to Cook Well?” on the Anthony Bourdain website. I know, I know Tony isn’t exactly fond of vegans, but I don’t care. I love to write and write I did. Here is an excerpt from my essay. You can read my full essay online here and please vote for it! You can vote once a day. Wouldn’t it be awesome if a vegan won? Wishful thinking… Here’s the excerpt:
“The scene. I’d hang my head over a boiling pot, squinting through the fuzzy steam to watch my mom dance in the balmy kitchen spotlight. The thick smell of sticky roasted garlic climbing up my nostrils as she vigorously spins steaming yarn-like pasta into a gooey glowing red ball. She slowly lays the fluffy strands on a bright yellow platter. Like an infant laid to rest in it’s crib. Suddenly a snowstorm of Parmesan cheese glides from her hands followed by a swift Donald Trump cobra-hand of intoxicating chopped basil, swiped from the cutting board. Tableside, I bite into a melting warm fork of pasta – my entire body oozes into the steam lifting off my plate and onto my face. Eyes closed. Mouth curled. I am twelve and I am drunk on tomato sauce. And happiness. You won’t find that on an index card.” – Kathy P, read full essay here.
Now onto my recipe…
Spaghetti and Tempeh Cubes
vegan, serves 4 with leftovers
9 oz dry Spaghetti pasta (give or take)
salted water for boiling
8 ounces tempeh, cubed
1/2 can black olives
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 cups leafy green veggie (spinach, kale, chard), chopped
4-8 whole cloves of garlic
Parmesan cheese, vegan
red pepper flakes (opt’l)
fresh basil, chopped
3 1/2 cups strained tomatoes
2 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small white onion, diced
4 Tbsp Italian dry seasoning blend (oregano, basil, garlic)
8 cloves fresh garlic, chopped (you can also roast your garlic)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (adds a zippy flavor I personally love)
1/4 cup EVOO
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (optional)
1-2 Tbsp vegan buttery spread (optional – makes a richer sauce)
Optional: vegan white cheese for a bubbly topping effect (you will need to bake pasta for this method).
1. Prepare your marinara sauce on your stove. Add all ingredients to a pot and allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes. (Or you can simply use a good store bought brand – there are plenty out there).
2. Boil your salted water – drop pasta for about 6-10 minutes, depending on brand. If baking your pasta: Preheat your oven to a warm 350 degrees.
3. Two minutes before your pasta is ready, add in the diced tempeh cubes, whole garlic cloves and chopped mushrooms – right on top on the pasta. Stir everything around a bit with your spoon so the pasta doesn’t stick.
4. Drain your pasta and cubes. The tempeh, garlic and mushrooms will be cooked just enough so that they are tender, but not mushy. Pour the pasta, shroom, garlic and tempeh into a large bowl. Add a Tbsp of EVOO and toss well.
5. Add your hot pasta sauce to the pasta/tempeh/shrooms/garlic. Toss well. Add in the olives, chopped kale, a bit of Parmesan cheese and optional red pepper flakes. Toss well. The heat from the pasta should wilt the greens a bit. Pour your the mixture into an extra large casserole dish.
6. You can either 1) serve as is. or 2) Top with grated vegan Mozzarella cheese and broil the pasta for 5-10 minutes. Leave in a warm oven until ready to serve.
7. Serve with some fresh chopped basil, a sprinkle of Parm and an additional drizzle of EVOO if you’d like. This pasta is delicious for next-day leftovers.
Get drunk on tomato sauce tonight…
And don’t forget to vote for my essay! many thanks 🙂
More spaghetti photos…