Easy Italian - Show #504

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Eggplant Stack-Ups

Makes 6 servings 

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juice

1½ teaspoons Italian seasoning blend

3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried crushed rosemary

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 large eggplant

1 can (15 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup raw cashews

1/3 cup filtered or spring water

1 clove garlic, chopped

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 slices whole-grain bread, torn into chunks

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. To make the tomato sauce, put the tomatoes (with juice), 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon olive oil, garlic powder, rosemary and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper in a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine. Trim off the stem end of the eggplant and discard. Cut a 1½- to 2-inch slice off each end of the eggplant and dice. Add the diced eggplant to the tomato sauce and stir to combine.

Slice the center of the eggplant into 1/8- to ¼-inch wide slices, to make 24 slices. 

Next, put the white beans, cashews, water, chopped garlic, ¼ teaspoon sea salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper in a blender and process until smooth.

Spread half of the tomato sauce mixture evenly in the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch casserole dish. Spread a heaping tablespoon of the cashew mixture evenly on each of 6 eggplant slices. Arrange the 6 slices in a single layer over the top of the tomato sauce in the casserole dish. Spread a heaping tablespoon of the cashew mixture evenly on 6 more eggplant slices. Arrange these 6 slices over the first layer of slices, to start assembling the “stacks.” Continue in this manner with 6 more eggplant slices. Top each stack with a plain eggplant slice. (There will be 4 slices of eggplant in each of 6 stacks). Top each stack with one-sixth of the remaining tomato sauce mixture.

Cover and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the eggplant is almost soft. 

While the eggplant bakes, put the whole-grain bread chunks, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning and ¼ teaspoon salt in a blender and pulse on medium-low to process into coarse crumbs. Put the crumbs in a small bowl and add 2 teaspoons olive oil. Gently toss to evenly coat the bread crumbs with the oil. If the bread crumbs still seem dry, add 1 more teaspoon of olive oil and stir to coat. 

Remove the cover from the casserole and sprinkle one-sixth of the bread crumb mixture over the top of each stack. Cover and bake for 10 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more or until the eggplant is soft, the crumbs are golden and the sauce is bubbling. Cool 10 minutes. Serve one stack per person with rice, quinoa or whole-grain pasta served on the side.


Vegan-Ease Pizza

Makes 1 to 2 servings 

1 10-inch whole-grain sandwich wrap or tortilla

2 to 3 tablespoons low-fat prepared marinara sauce

¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach, washed and dried

4 green queen olives with pimento, sliced (see note)

10 to 12 slices vegan pepperoni or 4 very thinly sliced cremini mushrooms

1/3 cup shredded vegan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the sandwich wrap on a large baking sheet or pizza pan. Spread the marinara sauce over the wrap, in an even layer, leaving a slight margin around the edge for a “crust.” Sprinkle the Italian seasoning and crushed pepper over the sauce. Top with the baby spinach, pressing it down to make it more compact.

Top with the olives, vegan pepperoni (or mushrooms) and vegan cheese (optional). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crust is crisp and toppings are heated through. Cut into wedges and serve.


Laura’s Spaghetti

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large red or sweet onion, chopped

½ small bunch celery, with leaves, chopped

¼ cup filtered or spring water, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jar (24 to 28 ounces) low-fat vegan marinara sauce

8 to 10 large fresh basil leaves, torn in pieces

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 pound whole-grain spaghetti or other pasta

Put the onion, celery, ¼ cup water, tamari, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper in a large skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Add more water, 2 tablespoons at a time, if the mixture gets dry. Add the mushrooms, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, adding more water, if needed. Add the garlic, cover and cook for 2 minutes. 

Decrease the heat to medium-low. Pour in the marinara sauce, cover and cook for 10 minutes (see note). Stir in the basil leaves, cover and cook 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add ¼ teaspoon sea salt (optional). Stir in the spaghetti. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but firm. Drain the spaghetti. 

To serve family-style, arrange the cooked spaghetti on a large platter and top with the sauce. For individual servings, divide the spaghetti into six to eight pasta bowls, spooning sauce over each portion. Serve immediately.