I love stuffed pastas, from ravioli to gyozas to pierogies - there's good reason these dishes show up in food traditions around the world. The combination of fillings, pasta, and sauce include so many flavors in every bite, and the opportunities for variety are boundless. This was a really easy dish, mostly because I did most of the prep work - making a vegan "ricotta" filling and a nummy red wine tomato sauce - the night before.
Tofu and walnuts, with a healthy dose of roasted garlic, form the base of the ricotta-style filling. Here's the ingredients:
1 14 oz. package firm tofu, pressed for an hour to drain excess moisture
1/2 cup walnuts
6 cloves roasted garlic
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
I mixed everything but the basil in the food processor, but you can do it with a fork. Mix in the basil after everything else is well-combined.
The tomato sauce can be replaced in this recipe by any decent prepared pasta sauce, though I went the home-made route. It's a basic sauce of tomatoes, garlic and onion, with some oregano and a little bit of sugar, salt, and pepper. A shot of red wine added to the sauteeing garlic and onion brought some nice character, but it's optional.
The manicotti are boiled until just slightly undercooked, about 7 minutes, since they finish cooking while baking. After draining the boiled manicotti, and rinsing with cold water, I used one of those pastry decorating funnels (what are they called, anyway?) to squeeze the "ricotta" into the manicotti tubes. This could be done by hand or with a spoon, but would be a lot messier...well worth picking up one of those pastry tubes. Pour your pasta sauce over the stuffed manicotti to cover everything, and bake at 375 F for 45 to 50 minutes.
I sometimes avoid making stuffed pastas because it can seem like a lot of work, but this is a very easy way to create those tastes with pretty minimal effort. Enjoy!