Friday, June 24, 2011

Spinach Fennel Pasta Bake

And the countdown is down. Way down. Less than 24 hours. At this point tomorrow I will be almost one hour in to my run. So that means I will be done. In my dreams.

My initial completion goal for this weekend's race was 1:30. And then I (re) injured my back. Damn backs.

So now that I am dealing with that, my ideal would be to finish in under 2 hours. Or even 2 hours. This was a tough blow for me. I was in denial for a while but dear Honey gave me a reality check.

It went a little something like this: (Honey in 'doctor mode')

'Yeah. You probably shouldn't run this weekend. Your body isn't well... I mean, you're maybe 85% right now. At best. At best.'

[interjection by me]

'Alright... don't listen to me. Yeah, if you insist, just do. not. push. it.'

[interjection by me]

'Do you like running? You do? Yes? Ok then, don't push it.'

For some reason he seems to think I don't listen to him. I have no idea why.

So tomorrow's run could either be: A: amazing or B: the worst idea ever in life.

On to more awesome things, aka carbohydrates. It's carb load day, it's carb load day! I made a delicious pasta bake for carb load day and it is not only delicious, it has good for you spinach from our CSA, flavorful fennel and homemade tomato sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes.

Great for carb loading and loading up your hungry family. And it's super easy. One of those make it and put it in the oven meals that busy families appreciate. Feel free to add some vegan (or non vegan) protein such as seitan shreds, marinated tofu or Tofutti italian sausage. All would fare well in this fun dish.

Yield: about 8-10 servings

Extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves plus 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 14 oz cans (or 1 28 oz) San Marzano diced tomatoes
8-10 whole fresh basil leaves, finely julienned
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 package firm tofu, drained and pressed of excess liquid
1/2 cup raw pecan or walnut pieces
2-3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt, give or take
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large fennel bulb, cut into quarters and skewered
About 2-3 lightly packed cups fresh spinach leaves
1 package bowtie pasta
1 package Daiya 'mozzarella cheese' shreds

In a large pot, heat olive oil and add 4 cloves garlic and shallot. Cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes then add your can(s) of San Marzano tomatoes by gently hand crushing small portions of the tomatoes before you put them into the pot.

Stir, then add salt, pepper and basil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook while you prepare everything else.

In a food processor, combine 2 cloves garlic, tofu, walnut pieces, apple cider vinegar, oregano and salt and pepper. Pulse and blend until very smooth. Transfer to your pot of pasta sauce, turn off the heat and add fresh spinach leaves. Stir to combine and set aside.

Skewer your fennel and grill on the barbecue for about 3 minutes on each side. Alternately you can roast them in the oven on 400 for 5-8 minutes on each side. When done cooking, chop into about 1/2 to 1/4 inch pieces and add to your marinara 'ricotta' mixture.

Preheat oven to 375.

Boil pasta until just al dente. Note: do not over cook your pasta.

When pasta is done, drain and add to your mixture. Add Daiya and gently fold everything together. Don't mix too vigorously, to avoid breaking the pasta. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Transfer mixture to a large, lightly oiled baking dish. Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly crispy on top then remove and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

A beautiful fresh green salad is the perfect pair to this 'creamy' filling pasta bake.

A perfect make ahead dish for those busy nights; it also makes great left overs (Honey, thank you for being my leftover king) for a quick lunch or dinner.




  1. Turmericnspice... Thank you!! and Thank you :)

  2. Turned out great! I added a bit of garlic and onion powder and some chili flakes for extra flavor. Will definitely forward this one to friends. Very creative - thanks!



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