I admit that I love cookbooks! I can’t get enough of them! I was a fan of Julie Hasson’s Vegan Diner cookbook and I make her super simple Greek tofu scramble, veggie chili, and chocolate chip cookie pie pretty regularly. I’ve fooled several omnivores with her dishes, so when I had a chance to review her latest cookbook, Vegan Casseroles, I jumped at the opportunity.
What I’ve always loved about Julie’s cookbooks is that her recipes are easy to follow and they turn out pretty damn tasty. As a vegan who cooks a lot for omnivores, I’m always looking for recipes that satisfy everyone.
I tried out two recipes—Very Veggie Pot Pie and the Baked Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce—and they were perfection.
Very Veggie Pot Pie from Vegan Casseroles
As a fun part of reviewing, I’m allowed to share the recipe for the Baked Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce with my readers—SEE BELOW. During the months of October and November, I’m all about pumpkin everything, so this dish is ideal for a weeknight dinner.
AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
Running Press, the publishers of Vegan Casseroles, are hosting an awesome Grand Prize giveaway for 1 BlendTec 725 Designer Blender. Five runners up will receive a copy of Vegan Casseroles.
(Details: Giveaway ends on December 11, and it’s only open to US residents.)
Baked Penne With Pumpkin Cream Sauce from VEGAN CASSEROLES. Photo credit: Felicia Perretti.
Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
Baked Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce
Pumpkin is always a fall favorite, although you can enjoy this dish anytime of the year. The sauce has a hint of sweetness from the pumpkin but also a nice savory flavor from the sage and onions. I think this dish has become one of my daughter’s favorites.
Serves 4 to 6
12 ounces dried penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened soymilk or almond milk, plus more as needed
1 (15-ounce) can puréed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 recipe Buttery Crumb Topping (see below), prepared without nutritional yeast flakes
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.
In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, add the penne and cook according to package directions until al dente. Don’t overcook the pasta, especially if you’re using one that is gluten-free. Drain the pasta well and transfer to a large bowl.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a blender, purée the onion mixture, soymilk, pumpkin, nutritional yeast, cashews, salt, sage, and nutmeg. Blend until the mixture is super-smooth and velvety, and no traces of nuts remain. If the sauce is too thick to blend, you can add up to an additional 1/2 cup of nondairy milk.
Add the pumpkin sauce to the pasta, stirring until the pasta is well coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top of the casserole. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the casserole is hot and the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve hot.
Tip: If you’re using a high-speed blender, you can skip the soaking step for the cashews and just use them dry. Add a little extra water to blend if needed.
Variation: Substitute fresh or dried rosemary for the sage.
Gluten-Free: Use a gluten-free pasta, such as brown rice, as well as gluten-free panko breadcrumbs in the topping. My favorite gluten-free pasta for this recipe is brown rice penne.
Buttery Crumb Topping
A nice buttery crumb topping is my husband’s favorite part of a casserole. It is especially good on everything from mac and cheese to vegetable casseroles, as it adds a nice rich, garlicky crunch. Crumb toppings are also open to a number of variations, depending on how you season them.
Makes about 1/2 cup, enough to top an 8-or 9-inch casserole
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine, melted
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
Pinch of salt
In a small bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs, margarine, nutritional yeast, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Tip: You can substitute olive oil for the margarine, if desired.
Variation: For an herbed-garlic-flavored topping, add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs. For a richer topping, increase the margarine to 3 tablespoons.
Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. My favorite brand is Ian’s, which is also egg-free and dairy-free.