Welcome to another of my quixotic flights of culinary fancy! This time it's an animal-free adaptation of an Italian casserole called Pasta Sapore Piccante. The prototype is a veritable fatfest featuring butter, cream, Italian sausage, and enough cheese to virtually guarantee significant coronary fireworks: just the sort thing that cries out - well, to me anyway - to be veganized. Aside from removing the blood, guts, and various effluvia, I reduced the overall fat, increased the pasta:sausage ratio, and added mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic to make things a bit more interesting. The result is a dish that is filling, but surprisingly un-gutbomby. Add a salad and/or green vegetable (we had roasted broccoli) et voila: dinner is served!
Pasta Sapore Piccante
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 Italian flavor veggie sausages, diced
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
~ 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
~ 2 tsp. dried sage
~ 1 tsp each: salt, oregano
~ ½ tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 1 cup soy creamer
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/2 cup vegan Parmesan or nutritional yeast
~ 1 14 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
~ 1 lb. penne rigate pasta
~ Preheat oven to 375° and coat a large casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large skillet, sauté the sausage in 1 tbsp. of the olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove to a plate and set aside.
~ Add the remaining oil to the skillet; sauté the garlic and bell pepper for about 2 minutes before adding the mushrooms, Liquid Smoke, sage, salt, pepper flakes, nutmeg, and black pepper. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, until softened.
~ Stir in the creamer, and bring to a simmer; gradually add the Parmesan and other cheeses, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
~ Add the reserved sausage and the drained tomatoes; stir to combine.
~ Cook the pasta until al dente and drained according to package directions, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.
~ Mix thoroughly with the cooked, drained penne (adding as much of the reserved cooking water as you need to keep things from sticking), and transfer to your eagerly waiting casserole.
~ Bake uncovered at 375° for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown and bubbly brown on top.
~ Allow to rest briefly (about 10 minutes) before serving.