Saturday, January 1, 2011

Recipe: Vegan Vegetable Manicotti

I've had some discussions over the past few days with vegan mamas who are chefs to omnivorous families. One of the frustrations moms have shared with me is their kids tend to want "regular" dinners (which I take to mean "not vegan").

Now, Sexy Vegan Mama does the lion's share of the cooking around these parts, and she sure as Shiitake isn't going to cook meat, dairy or eggs. However, I can and do modify "regular" favorites from my non-vegan past to prepare for my family. Sometimes, the result is disastrous, and sometimes, it's whiz-bang awesome.

I made a fairly good manicotti a few years ago,, but I either lost the recipe or didn't write it down in the first place - two illustrations of my organizational abilities that are each as likely as the other.

So I tried again last night.

Of the 14 stuffed manicotti tubes, Mr. Wright snarfed down six and Pepper and GirlWonder each made a point of saying, "These are really good!" I'll forgive them their tone of surprise.

Live and learn... I wrote down the recipe this time!

This recipe is also perfect for another group of moms who've been crossing my path lately - those who want to try including tofu in family meals, but are worried their kids (or husbands!) won't eat it or feel the prospect of cooking it is daunting. All the fear of cooking tofu is alleviated in this recipe because it's simply crumbled and mixed into the stuffing, and your kids will never know it's in there. Although manicotti takes a bit of preparation, it's a great starter recipe for the tofu-curious!

Sexy Vegan Mama’s Vegan Vegetable Manicotti


1 – 8 oz. package manicotti shells

1 lb firm tofu
1 – 8 oz. tub vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese)
1 – 8 oz. package vegan mozzarella-style shreds (I use Daiya Deliciously Dairy Free)
1 large carrot, grated
1 – 5 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 c. fresh broccoli, finely chopped
1 c. fresh spinach leaves, finely chopped (*see tip, below)
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (I use an herb mill)
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. black pepper
1/2 T. dried sweet basil

1 – 26 oz. can prepared pasta sauce (or, you know, make your own if you have time – I rarely do)


Fresh spinach leaves and cilantro sprigs for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the tofu, then use the back of a wide spoon to mash the block into small “curds.”

Add vegan cream cheese and mozzarella shreds, mixing thoroughly. Stir in grated carrot, chopped water chestnuts, broccoli, spinach...

...and cilantro.

Add garlic powder, nutmeg, black pepper and basil and mix well.

Prepare manicotti shells according to directions on package. Rinse with cold water and drain.

Using a narrow spoon or pastry bag (without a decorator’s tip), fill both ends of manicotti shells with tofu filling. Don’t stuff or cram the filling into the pasta tube, as it will only burst during cooking and make you cry when your manicotti turns out ugly.

Lightly coat the bottom of a casserole dish with a bit of pasta sauce, then place filled manicotti in the pan with a bit of space between each one.

Side note: Is there actually a casserole dish made that easily accommodates all 14 manicotti shells? I always have to use my 9” x 13” in tandem with my 9.5” square!

Use remaining sauce to cover stuffed manicotti, ensuring all edges of the pasta are coated in sauce to prevent drying while baking.

Cover casserole dishes with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Let stand for about five minutes before serving.

Makes 14 stuffed manicotti tubes.

*Tip for chopping spinach: Stack spinach leaves, largest on the bottom. Gently roll the leaves, then cut the roll into quarters lengthwise, then slice the long stips into small bits.

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  1. The manicotti look delicious. I'm digging the thought of enjoying some crunch from the addition of water chestnuts--great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I personally think the water chestnut crunch is my favorite part, but I'm also thinking chopped celery would serve the same purpose, if someone wasn't such a fan of water chestnuts (which describes one of my kids).

    Or maybe chopped raw almonds?

  3. I am one of those veg mamas to omnivore families. new follower, found you through twitter of all places. :)

    In fact, my New Year's Resolution is to cook one new meal every day in 2011 that will please everyone in our house. I'm sure I'll be pulling my hair out around September. Stop by and check it out. I've already had failures in some of my prelaunch recipes, but I've been throwing away less food at least.

    Kristi @
    Veggie Converter

  4. Kristi, you're exactly the sort of mom I'm hoping to reach with the upcoming SWEET AND SIMPLE VEGAN DESSERTS - the newly vegan or not-quite-yet-vegan.

    I'm looking forward to watching your journey. Thanks for stopping by! xoxo