Life is busy. Despite our best intentions, there are weeks where we are just ‘off’ our game and we eat leftovers more than we’d like, we succumb to edamame mac, or we put together some mismatched items to get a meal on the table. The low point of this week was veggie hot dogs with kale salad, which was for all intentions uninspiring, but the salad was too good to keep secret. We put my favorite ginger salad dressing from Japanese restaurants on kale! This dressing is my guilty indulgence but I always feel horribly eating it on wilted iceberg, so this was the perfect way to feel good about eating tablespoons of the tangy, gingery, and tart stuff. We replaced the miso paste with soy sauce, but I’m sure it would be just as good with the miso. Before serving, massage the dressing into the kale to help wilt the kale and make it a little easier to eat.
The REAL gem from this week, however, was a complete experimentation. We had a few eggplant in the fridge and were craving some good Italian, but didn’t want anything too pasta-heavy. This take on manicotti is not only fun to make, but healthy and a fantastic make-ahead meal for those busy weeknight dinners! Plus, if done the way we did, it’s actually completely vegan!
Stuffed and Smothered Roll-Ups
1/2 package firm tofu, pressed to remove as much liquid as possible
2 small eggplants
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 cups marinara sauce (either jarred or fresh)
1 box lasagna noodles, boiled 6-8 minutes until al dente, not completely cooked
Cut eggplants in half length-wise and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 until the flesh is soft and pulls away from the purple skin, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, then scrape eggplant flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Add in tofu, garlic, parsley, and basil, plus salt and pepper. Pulse until combined into a paste, then taste– adjust and add any dried oregano, Italian seasoning, or other flavors to taste.
Take 3-4 pre-cooked lasagna noodles and lay them flat on a cutting board. Cut them in half to create pieces approximately 1.5 inches by 4 inches. Scoop out a teaspoon of the filling and place on one end, then roll the noodle over the filling and towards the other end, creating a tunnel of the noodle wrapped around the filling (see photos below). Lay each roll-up in a baking dish that has a few spoonfuls of marinara on the bottom. When the dish is full, ladle marinara over the top. Either bake immediately or cover with plastic wrap and foil- will keep for 2 days in the fridge or up to a few weeks in the freezer. When ready to bake, cook at 350 degrees until bubbling.
These roll-ups are absolutely amazing. They’re everything you love about Italian food, but with the protein of the tofu and the eggplant hidden inside. And while you could add in some Parmesan to the filling or on top of the baking dish, these really don’t need it! They’re creamy from the pureed eggplant and tofu, savory, and sweet from the marinara. You don’t miss the ricotta, I promise – just taste the fresh vegetables and herbs. Plus, the noodles give them some carbs without the overload of typical Italian food. Try these next weekend and save a batch in the freezer for later in the winter– you won’t be disappointed!
Coming Up Next: Review of Lettuce Turnip the Beet vegan pop-up dinner at Butcher & Bee in Charleston, SC