October 2, 2016

Eggplant Cheese Pasta Bake (Vegan)

When I was about 10 or 11, during my early days in the kitchen, I made pasta (and spaghetti tacos) every week. I remember getting so good at making pasta (of all dishes...I know, right?), that I began calling it "Hannah's famous pasta/spaghetti". I think one of the reasons why it tasted so good was because of all the mozzarella I added ;); I haven't eaten this classic dish of mine in over 4 years, and my fondness of pasta has really diminished. However, during my busy summer, I found myself in need of a quick and filling lunch idea. I remembered my former penchant for my "famous" pasta, and thus, this recipe was born.

This recipe involves an eggplant cheese sauce recipe, which you can find on Minimalist Baker's website. To be completely honest, I don't like this sauce on its own, but it does work beautifully with other ingredients when it doesn't have to shine on its own. Let's be real here - scientists can do everything they can in a lab, but there's no perfect substitution (flavor, texture, appearance, and all) for actual cheese. However, this cheese sauce does make a normal pasta dish taste way better -- plus, you don't have to buy expensive cashews or vegan cheese to make it! If you're looking closely, I did add chicken to this batch, but you can certainly make this dish 100% vegan by omitting the chicken and adding your own protein of choice.

I have to say, though I still don't instinctively gravitate towards pasta (like I would towards sandwiches or...peanut butter), this dish has definitely stirred up some feelings:

Recipe: Eggplant Cheese Pasta Bake 
By: Hannah Claudia (feat. Minimalist Baker's Vegan Queso recipe)

1/2 batch of eggplant cheese sauce (recipe here; I followed the recipe exactly but omitted the salsa)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp of oregano
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
3 cups of marinara sauce

2 cups of cooked pasta (about 1 cup dry)
1 cup of cooked broccoli (cut into smaller chunks)
1 cup of cooked white button mushrooms

(opt: vegan cheese to sprinkle on top; any additional mix ins, fresh basil and parsley)

1. In a sauce pan, mix the cheese sauce with the garlic, oregano, garlic powder, and marinara sauce.
2. Heat the sauce mixture over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat.
3. Add the pasta, broccoli, and mushrooms to the sauce mixture and stir.
4. Pour the pasta into a prepared casserole dish and bake at 375*F for 15-20 minutes.

xoxo, han

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