So basically, before I was vegan, pasta with tomato sauce and copious amounts of cheddar (extra-strong) was an absolute staple of mine, but since then I've found it a bit disappointing. I think all I really wanted was an excuse to eat cheese (I did love cheese). But as I need to clean out my cupboards before going home for Christmas tomorrow, I decided to use up the last of some vegan mozzarella left over from one of my more indulgent days involving a pizza. I also had a bunch of fresh tomatoes to use up, so I decided to make a basic marinara (ish) sauce with fresh tomatoes, and I have to say I don't tink I'll be using canned tomatoes again for pasta sauce for a long while. I am fully converted, this was absolutely delicious. Okay so this isn't the healthiest meal ever, but hey, it's Christmas guys....Ish. I couldn't decide if I wanted pasta with a sauce or a pasta bake, so I went in between. Good choice.
Incidentally this dish could be just as good non-vegan with meatballs and real mozzarella, feel free to substitute as you like. Also I feel I should point out (as my mum did as soon as she saw this) that this is not an Italian marinara sauce. I am using this here in the American sense (like the sauce on a meatball sub or something) just as a nicely flavoured tomato sauce. Marinara in italian means 'in the mariner's style' i.e. seafood, but vegan seafood substitutes are not something I have any experience with so I have not tried to make a vegan seafood sauce (many apologies to anyone lead here under false pretences!).
Ingredients: Serves 1
For the Sauce:
2 raw Tomatoes
2 large cloves of Garlic
Large Handful of Nuts (a recipe on the internet suggested cashews which I thought sounded nice but I used peanuts left over from pad thai! Toasted pine nuts would be another good substitute I think)
Large handful of fresh Basil (dried just isn't worth it honestly, if you don't have this though substitute for a large teaspoon of pesto)
1/2 Red onion
1 tsp of Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Pasta:
100g dried Linguini (this can be easily substituted for whatever pasta you prefer, or for gluten free substitute corn pasta)
For the Bake:
2 Vegan Sausages
A good sprinkling of Vegan Mozzarella
The meatballs here are a bit of a cheat. I have tried several varieties of vegan sausages and tofu hotdogs and such and not really found any that I've liked. Linda McCartney vegan sausages are the nicest I've found, but still a bit dry (although this may have more to do with my terrible timekeeping than the actual sausage). However, I recently discovered that Sainsbury's basics vegetarian sausages are vegan and only a pound for a box of eight! Happy times. Also only 68 calories each, theya re not to bad there either. I'd imagine you wouldn't want to eat them too regularly, but for the occasional treat they come frozen and make a nice addition to a variety of meals. Anyway, I liked it, soon I will experiment and make up some proper vegan meatballs but for now, this will do.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Also if, like mine, your grill takes about 3 years to heat up then start that as well, this isn't a long recipe.
Defrost two of your sausages in the microwave, then cut these up into small meatball-sized chunks (I cut each into five). Place on a baking tray in the oven for about 15 minutes (but adjust to your oven and whatever the sausages say on the pack).
Next boil the pasta in salted water - add a touch of oil to stop it sticking together.
Now for the sauce, chop up the garlic really finely and fry until brown in the oil.
While this is frying, crush the nuts well in a pestle and mortar, add these to the saucepan and leave to toast/fry.
Next chop up the tomatoes into small chunks. Proper recipes will tell you to put the tomatoes in boiling water for a couple of minutes first and then peel the skins and then chop them up, but honestly, the skin blends down pretty easily and I'm not fussed, but feel free to do this if you want too. You have more patience than me!
Add these to the saucepan and cook down until soft.
Boil a kettle, and add just enough water to the sauce so you can blend it with a hand blender (if you're making more than one quantity you won't need to do this, although you might want to if you feel it's a bit thick) and blend until smooth.
Next chop up the basil roughly and add to the sauce, I like to do this now because I think the basil is nicer in large chunks, but many recipes tell you to add this before blending if you like a smoother texture, go with your gut. This is just my preference.
Chop the red onion lengthways and fry until browned separately, then add these to the sauce.
By this point the pasta should be cooked. If you like it al dente it will probably be done before this but I like my pasta cooked into a mushy oblivion so when it's how you like it, strain and place in a small baking dish.
Pour the sauce on top, mix slightly to make sure the pasta is fully coated (or it may burn).
Sprinkle the mozzarella on top and then grill for 15 minutes until the cheese is golden.
Add the meatballs on top and you're done.
Serve with an episode of Happy Endings (seriously, I love this show. Watch it).
If and when I make a meatball recipe I'll like it here as well, until then, enjoy the recipe!
NB// Just remembered I meant to add capers to this, will make a nice addition to the sauce if added at the same time as the nuts.
The sauce works out at 111 calories, the meatballs are 136, the mozzarella is around 70 and the pasta is 355 giving a total of 678 for this rather indulgent meal. But worth it.