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Nondairy Dinner of Manicotti with Tofu, Spinach, and Mushrooms

This traditional Italian dish made with manicotti (long, hollow tubes of pasta) is rich, flavorful, and free of saturated fat and dairy ingredients. The pasta tubes are cooked, filled with a nondairy cheese, vegetable, and herb mix, and topped with a tomato-based pasta sauce. In this version, tofu replaces the cheese.

If manicotti tubes aren’t available, you can substitute cooked lasagna noodles. Spread the filling on the noodles and roll them up instead of making filled tubes. Also, try broccoli instead of spinach, if desired.

Preparation time: About 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

6 manicotti tubes

10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, or 6 cups fresh spinach leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped

One 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained and chopped (about 2 cups fresh, sliced)

16 ounces firm tofu

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon salt, if desired

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups spaghetti sauce (any bottled or fresh variety)

Soy Parmesan cheese

Chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley and black olives for garnish

Several teaspoons of oregano, basil, or thyme (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and cook the manicotti according to the package directions. While the pasta cooks, drain the chopped spinach and squeeze out any remaining water. Set aside.

  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Cook the garlic and onion in the oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the onion mixture. Sauté for a minute. Add the spinach (or broccoli) to the onion mixture and sauté over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, turning the contents of the skillet with a spatula to help combine them. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, place the tofu, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Mash well with a potato masher or fork. Add the contents of the skillet to the tofu mixture. Mix well, using your hands if necessary to combine the ingredients thoroughly.

    Add fresh herbs, if desired.

  4. Oil a medium-sized rectangular baking pan or decorative casserole dish. Spoon two or three scoops of spaghetti sauce (about 1/2 cup) onto the bottom of the pan and spread evenly.

  5. Fill each manicotti tube with some of the tofu mixture.

    Portioning the filling first may help so you don’t come up short when you get to the last of the manicotti.

  6. Place the manicotti side by side in the baking dish and cover with the remaining tomato sauce. (If you have extra tofu mixture left over, you can mix some of it into the tomato sauce before pouring it over the top of the manicotti.) Sprinkle the tops of the manicotti lightly with soy Parmesan cheese.

  7. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time. Before serving, scatter chopped parsley and black olives over the top to garnish.

Per serving: Calories 430 (124 from Fat); Fat 14g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 450mg; Carbohydrate 58g (Dietary Fiber 7g); Protein 23g.

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