Olive, Spinach, Tomato Pasta with Chunky Meatless Marinara

This might not be the fanciest dish or the most unique, but that is kind of what makes it so great!  You can easily find or get these ingredients, none of which are very expensive, and make a delicious, healthy, and easy meal that can feed you, a friend or a two, or a whole brood.  All you need to know is how to boil a pot of water!  Sometimes I forget about these simple recipes when I am trying to figure out what to eat and this one is a great staple that you can make over and over again, add different ingredients to change it up, and be satisfied at the end of your meal.  It’s also a great way to get greens into your diet, which is always an on-going goal of mine!

The ingredients provide pretty colors and great texture which makes it that much more appealing!  Lately when I am cooking, I have found myself asking, what color does this dish need or what texture can I add to it?  I feel like it has definitely helped me make dishes more complete and healthy, and given me ingredient ideas I may not have come up with.

Here is an ingredient breakdown for this dish:

– Whole wheat pasta is the staple and provides carbohydrates which fuels your body as well as fiber
– Spinach gives bright pops of green to the dish and also contains many nutrients such as vitamin K, A, C, iron, calcium, and even a bit of protein
– Tomatoes lend some sweetness and lots of flavor to the dish, and is also a source of vitamin C and rich in the antioxident lycopene
– Meatless soy grounds give this dish a protein boost
– The green olives adds some zest to the pasta the high monounsaturated fat content of olives has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

Ready to make it? Let’s get started…

Olive, Spinach, Tomato Pasta with Chunky Meatless Marinara

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This recipe serves about 2 generous servings and 4 moderate servings.

- 8 oz (about 1/2 a bag as they usually come in 16 oz bags) of whole wheat fusilli pasta (you can use any kind)
– 1/2 a bag of pre-packed baby spinach, rinsed
– 3 large tomatoes, diced
– 1/2 cup of green olives, sliced (you can use more or less depending on your taste, I try to make sure the ingredients are proportional to one another)
- 16 or 18 oz jar of organic marinara sauce
– 1 pkg (which is usually about 1 lb.) of meatless grounds which you can find at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Add pasta.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Cook as directed on the package, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, in a small saucepan, heat up the marinara sauce with the meatless ground.  Use a wooden spoon to break the meatless ground into smaller pieces.  Stir the sauce and let it simmer until it is heated through.

At around the 8 minute mark I will taste test and stop cooking when it is just about done, so still a little hard when biting.  Turn off the heat.

With the pasta water still in the pot, add the spinach.  Stir until spinach is wilted.  During this time the pasta should have had time to finish cooking, you can taste a piece to check.  If it is still hard, cover the pot for a few minutes to finish cooking the pasta.


Add the olives and tomatoes, toss to mix.  Serve with sauce and a side of olives.

Eggplant Two Ways

I only recently started cooking with eggplant– I just wasn’t sure what to make and how to make it before!  It’s such an interesting vegetable though, the only purple one I can think of right now, with a funny spongy texture before it is cooked.  The first recipe I ever tried was ratatouille, and since then I have been hooked!

Eggplant is not only pretty, but very good for you:

  • 1 cup provides 9 grams of carbs which is our body’s number source of fuel
  • 1 cup provides 2 grams of fiber
  • it is low in calories, 35/cup, and contains no fat while the high fiber content can help you feel full
  • the skin of the eggplant contains nasunin, which is an antioxident and free-radical scavenger
  • it is also a good source of B1, B6, and potassium

Eggplant is in season this month and here are two ways to add this beneficial vegetable to your BBQ or picnic basket:  grilled in a ratatouille inspired open face sandwich and sauteed in a caponata, spooned onto slices of a ciabatta loaf.

Grilled Ratatouille Open Face Sandwich

I love ratatouille and wanted to take elements of it to make a fun and easy finger food that can be made on a grill.  I stayed indoors and used Emeril’s grill & panini maker for this recipe which worked out great.

The bread:
– 1 loaf of good artisan bread or baguette, I used Trader Joe’s flax seed ciabatta, sliced lengthwise

The veggies for the grill:
– 1 small eggplant, sliced lengthwise into about 1/4″ width pieces
– 1 medium yellow squash, sliced lengthwise into about 1/4″ width pieces (I sliced them in half after cutting lengthwise as well)
– 1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into about 1/4″ width pieces (I didn’t use in my recipe)

To brush onto the veggies:
– 3 to 4 TBS of olive oil
– rosemary, chopped if fresh (recommended) but dried works too
– thyme, chopped if fresh (recommended) but dried works too
– coriander seeds or ground
– salt and pepper, to taste

Other veggies you  will need:
– 2 large tomatoes, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
– olive oil, for cooking
– a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped

Start by combining all the ingredients to be used to brush onto the grilled veggies: olive oil, rosemary, thyme, coriander, and a few shakes of salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Heat up the grill.  Once it’s ready, lightly brush the eggplant, yellow squash, and zucchini with the olive oil mixture.  Grill each side for about 3 to 4 minutes, until tender.  When done, remove from grill and place on a plate.

While you are working the grill, heat up a small saucepan with some olive oil.  Add the garlic and onions.  Cook until edges are browned and onions are translucent.

Once most of the vegetables are grilled, toast the lengthwise pieces of bread for a few minutes until bread is warm and tops are starting to get crispy.

Assemble the sandwich:  spoon the cooked garlic and onion onto the bread and spread evenly.  Start with a layer of eggplant, followed by a layer of squash, and then the zucchini.  Top with the tomato slices.  Sprinkle on the cut basil and some salt and pepper. Cut into slices and serve.

Eggplant Caponata

Caponata is a Sicilian dish consisting of a cooked vegetable salad with a sweet and sour taste.  This dish can be made a day or two before needed and stored in the refrigerator until ready to be eaten.

I found this recipe on Epicurious but I think the original recipe is from Bon Apetit.

– 1 small eggplant, cut int 1/2″ cubes
– 1/2 to 1 small onion, chopped
– 3 garlic cloves, chopped
– 3 to 4 medium tomatoes, diced
– red wine vinegar
– 2 TBS capers, drained
– a handful of fresh basil, chopped
– pine nuts, toasted
– olive oil, for cooking
– slices of bread or crackers

Heat up oil in a medium frying pan.  Add eggplant, onion, and garlic.  Saute for about 15 minutes, until eggplant is soft and brown.  If the mixture looks too dry, add a few TBS of water while cooking.

Add the tomatoes.  Drizzle some red wine vinegar on top and add the capers.  Cover the pan and cook on low heat until eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste test, and add more vinegar, salt, and pepper if desired.

Stir in fresh basil and transfer into a serving bowl or container.  Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.  This dish can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.  Spoon onto slices of bread or crackers.

Garfield’s Gluten Free Lasagna

Lasagna always reminds me of that funny orange cat named Garfield, because that was his favorite food!  I love lasagna almost as much as he does and this vegan version is satisfying, filling, and easy to put together.

It’s also great for the gluten-free people in your life.  I found this rice lasagna by DeBoles which worked out very well and honestly, the taste and texture was the same to me as regular pasta.  You don’t even have to pre-cook it– but make sure you cover it very well with tomato sauce and use a covered casserole dish to bake this, or else the top layer will dry up (and yes, I speak from experience).

Here is a basic recipe to follow, named in honor of the only cat in the world who eats lasagna, but feel free to add/replace any of the veggies or if you want to use your own tomato sauce recipe.

If you decide to use regular lasagna pasta, just make sure to pre-cook it as directed on the box.

I think Garfield would gobble this up like I did.

Garfield’s Gluten Free Lasagna

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I used a 9×13 casserole dish.  Remember to use a dish with a lid!

For the pasta:
– 1 package of rice lasagna pasta

For the sauce:
- 1/2 an onion, chopped
– 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
– 1 can of tomato sauce
– 1 can of chopped tomatoes (if you can find one mixed with Italian spices already, you can get that)
– a few TBS of fresh basil, chopped, or dried basil
– salt and pepper, to taste
– vegetable oil, for cooking

For the filling:
– 1 package of firm tofu
– 2 medium zucchinis or yellow squash, or one of each, cut into thin slices
– 1 package of mushrooms, sliced (or you can buy the sliced packs if you are running low on time)
– 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
– dried herbs of your choice, to taste– I used Herbes de Provence since it is a mixture of a bunch of spices all in one
– salt and pepper, to taste

Start with the sauce.  In a medium saucepan heat up some oil.  Add the garlic and onions.  Cook until onions start to brown.  Add the tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add basil, salt, and pepper.  Taste test, adjust seasonings if needed, and remove from heat.

Take the block of tofu, add generous amounts of herbs, salt, and pepper, and begin to crumble and smash the herbs into the tofu with a fork.  Crumble all the tofu and make sure herbs, salt, and pepper are evenly distributed.

Preheat oven to 350F.

The next step is to assemble the lasagna. (Remember if you are using regular pasta instead of rice pasta, cook it first according to the package.)

*Here is a quick cheat sheet for the order, starting at the bottom: tomato sauce, pasta, tofu, veggies, then start again with the tomato sauce, followed by the pasta, then the tofu, etc.

Begin by covering the bottom of your dish with a generous amount of tomato sauce.  Place the lasagna pasta in a single layer covering the bottom of the dish on top of the sauce.  Add a layer of the crumbled tofu, followed by a layer of each of the veggies.  Cover the veggies with a layer of the tomato sauce, then start again with the pasta.  Repeat until you have filled up your dish and finish with a layer of pasta on top.

Make sure to generously cover the top layer of your pasta with sauce, so that no pasta is left untouched with sauce!

Cover your dish and bake at 350F until pasta is soft, it took me about 45 min to an hour.

Once cooked, cut into big squares and serve!

PS: If you have leftover veggies, they make for a great hash brown scramble the next morning!  Just chop into smaller bite sized pieces, add to a heated pan with oil, throw in a couple of chopped hash brown patties or tater tots, add garlic/onion powder, salt, and pepper, stir, and eat!  I made that this morning and my mom said she gives it 5 stars haha.  Thanks mom!  Another plus is that you get rid of leftover veggies quickly while they are still fresh.

Gnocchi + Chard + White Beans

I loooove this dish!!!  It’s a combination of everything I like (potato, Daiya mozzarella shreds, tomatoes, onions) plus healthy things I feel like I should be eating more of (chard, beans) all found in one convenient place– this pot in my kitchen!

I was able to find this whole wheat gnocchi (aka noki– I always forget how it should be pronounced) at Trader Joe’s that was vegan friendly (no eggs were used) and imported from Italy (fancy schmancy).  All the remaining ingredients are pretty basic and easy to find.  I always try to use the different colored chard whenever possible– I love that it comes in yellow and red– it still amazes all the beautiful colors you can find in nature!

Hope everyone enjoys this dish and is keeping warm and getting into the holiday spirit!

Gnocchi + Chard + White Beans

The original recipe is from Eating Well’s Skillet Gnocchi with Chard + White Beans.  I have substituted ingredients to make this dish vegan.

– 1 16 oz package of gnocchi
– 1 bunch of chard (I used 3 large leaves), cut into bite sized pieces
– 1 small onion, thinly sliced
– 4 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 can of white beans (I used cannelini)
– 3 large tomatoes diced, or 1 can of diced tomatoes
– 1/4 cup water
– a few tsp of Herbes de Provence (which is a mixture of dried herbs)
– freshly ground pepper, to taste
Daiya mozzerella style shreds
– vegan parmesean topping
– vegetable oil for cooking

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add gnocchi and boil for a minute and a half.  Drain.  In a frying pan heat up some oil and add the drained gnocchi.  Cook until outsides are crisp and brown.  You can leave it in the pan but remove from heat.

In a large pot heat up some oil.  Add onions.  Cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic and water.  Cover and cook until onions are translucent and soft.  Add chard and cook until leaves are wilted, a few minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, beans, and pepper.  Bring pot to a simmer.

Stir in gnocchi and sprinkle with mozzerella shreds and parmesean topping (or you can skip this step and sprinkle on each serving plate vs. in the pot, although it will take it longer to melt or you can broil it).  Cover and cook until cheese has melted (and yes, Daiya does melt, yay!) and sauce is bubbling.

Serve and eat warm!  This is good alone or served with pieces of toasted crusty bread.

Kale + Sausage + Tomato Penne Pasta

The inspiration for this dish was a non-vegan broccoli rabe and sausage pasta recipe.  I was initially just going to replace the chicken sausage with vegan sausage.  But then I replaced the broccoli rabe with kale since I had that in my fridge and wanted to use it while it was still fresh.  The addition of mini heirloom tomatoes was made to give this dish more color and that’s how this dish was born!

Kale + Sausage + Tomato Penne Pasta

– 3-4 leaves of kale, washed, and torn into bite sized pieces
– 2 links of vegan sausage, I used Original Field Roast Grain Meat Co. brand (pictured below)
– about 8 oz of mini heirloom tomatoes, halved/cut into bite sized pieces
– about 2 cups of penne pasta
– 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1 TBS parsley, chopped
– grapeseed oil for cooking (or any other oil you have on hand will do)
– salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until tender.  Taste test, then drain the water and transfer pasta to a large serving bowl.  Set aside.

In a large sauce pan, heat up oil.  Add garlic and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.  Add vegan sausage and cook until heated through and both sides are browned.  Toss in parsley and cook for a few more minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, add a bit of oil and cook kale until beginning to wilt.  Add tomatoes and some salt and pepper.  Cook until kale has wilted and tomatoes are heated.

Add sausage, kale, and tomatoes to the bowl of pasta.  Add salt and pepper and a light drizzle of olive oil if you’d like.  Toss everything together and serve immediately while dish is still warm.

Acorn Squash Penne Pasta

I have had this acorn squash sitting around for awhile and wanted to make a pasta dish with it.  I came across a recipe from Apartment Therapy‘s kitchen section called The Kitchn (I am obsessed with all parts of Apartment Therapy!) that looked good, minus the pancetta!  I had some Smart Bacon in my fridge and thought that might work well in its place. (Goal is to try to use up everything I have before going to the grocery store again.)

This made for a good filling meal and I really liked the bits and pieces of Smart Bacon in it!

Acorn Squash Penna Pasta

This recipe is a veganized version of Elizabeth Passarella’s recipe from The Kitchn

Makes about 4 servings

– 1 acorn squash
– 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, outside layer peeled off, and ends trimmed off
– 1/2 pound penne pasta
– 2 tsp olive oil, plus extra for coating squash
– 4 to 5 slices of LightLife’s Smart Bacon
– 1/4 cup pine nuts
– 1/4 cup vegetable stock
– 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped or dried rosemary
– vegan Parmesan topping
– salt and pepper

Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds with a spoon.  These suckers are so hard for me to cut through!

Cut each half into wedges, about 1/2″ thick.

{Halve, scoop, slice}

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400F.

Toss the wedge (with the skin on) with some olive oil (so they are lightly coated, not drenched), salt, and pepper and spread onto prepared baking sheet.

Wrap up the garlic (still with a layer of skin) in aluminum foil.  Place on the edge of the baking sheet with the squash.

Bake the squash and garlic for about 30-40 minutes, turning the pieces of squash half way. Both are done when you can easily pierce them with a fork.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

{Dry ingredients: pasta, dried rosemary, pine nuts}

While the squash is cooling, bring salt water to a boil and cook pasta until tender.  Taste test, reserve a cup of the pasta water, then drain, place in a large bowl, and set aside.

Once squash is cool, peel skin off of each wedge and cut into large chunks.

{Season, bake, peel}

Heat the 2 tsp of olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Saute the smart bacon for a few minutes until heated through.  Add pine nuts and cook until lightly browned.  Place in a bowl and set aside.

{Roasted garlic, peeled}

In the same pan,  heat up vegetable broth.  Stir in the rosemary and roasted garlic, mashing them up in the broth with a wooden spoon. Pour on top of pasta and toss to coat.  Add smart bacon, pine nuts, and squash.  Toss and serve with Parmesan topping.  (If the mixture seems to dry, add a bit of the reserved pasta water.)

I loved how everything turned out and all the textures and flavors.  I think my favorite part is the soft roasted garlic– it reminds me of the dip at The Stinking Rose, which I will have to try to make!