My busy September has kept me from cooking often, so I was psyched to have a free afternoon for some fun in the kitchen. Wife will be psyched, too, because she gets to eat this amazingness for dinner tomorrow. This one’s a keeper! Almost makes me sad that we’re going to be at the US Women’s Soccer Team game tonight instead of eating at home.
This recipe is a combination of a favorite pasta dish from my ovo-lacto days and a new pesto recipe I stumbled upon recently (over at Cathe’s Kitchen–check it!). My old version was a super-easy throw-together of pasta, ricotta, and tomato sauce. This new guy is much tastier (and definitely just a bit more complex) than the old one, and so so worth it. It even packs in your veggies!
Creamy Pesto Casserole
12-oz package whole grain pasta (I like rigatoni or penne for this)
1 bulb garlic
1 cup walnuts, toasted in oven for 5 minutes
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
16-oz package extra firm tofu
2 cups peas (I thawed frozen peas in warm water, which worked perfectly)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil (you can cut this down some)
6 cups broccoli florets
1 jar tomato-based pasta sauce (or 3 cups fresh tomato sauce)
2 cups bread crumbs (I like them fresh, made from sourdough)
1. Roast the garlic. A speedy way to do this: peel the cloves and wrap in a little foil packet with just a light drizzle of olive oil. Pop in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes or so, or until fork-tender. You can toast your walnuts now too (for 5 minutes or so). Leave the oven on for later, but turn it down to 350.
2. Cook the pasta. You got this (but do err on the side of slightly undercooking). Drain and rinse with cool water.
3. Make the pesto layer. Combine garlic, walnuts, basil, tofu, peas, salt, and oil in a blender and blend until creamy and smooth.
4. Put it all together! Layer half the cooked pasta in an oiled 9×13 casserole. Top with the raw broccoli florets, followed by the rest of the pasta. You can mix these together to get an even distribution. Spread the pesto on top in an even, thick layer. Top with tomato sauce, followed by bread crumbs.
5. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, checking occasionally to be sure the crumbs aren’t getting too dark. If they are, use a fork to rake them around and expose a light layer underneath.
6. Let sit for just a few minutes, then dig in!