I wanted to show people that vegan food could go upscale. This elegant presentation is matched by the scrumptious flavors. The pesto-based vegetable mixture inside the pasta shells offers a pleasant surprise if you don't know what's coming (and even if you do). The pan sauce adds a savory goodness with a hint of wine. This recipe can be easily multiplied to serve more people--I set up this recipe for a romantic dinner for two. Note in the picture that I served this with Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnut Butter. A lovely combination.
Preheat oven to 375°F and start the pasta water boiling.
When the oven is hot, toast the pine nuts for about 6 minutes (until just golden) and the breadcrumbs about 8 minutes, until golden. Leave the oven on after you take them out.
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
Half slice of bread processed into crumbs in food processor, then sprayed with spray-oil
Meanwhile, boil the pasta shells for about 10 minutes – until al dente, but not too firm. Drain.
8 jumbo pasta shells
Separately, cook the following vegetables in the microwave (or water-sauté on the stove) until the vegetables are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Drain off any extra water.
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup mixed vegetables, finely chopped (I use chopped raw broccoli slaw and red peppers, but use anything you think tastes good with pesto)
To start the pesto, mince the garlic in a food processor.
2 cloves garlic
Add the following and process into a paste.
1.5 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
2 Tablespoons of the toasted pine nuts
½ Tablespoon yellow or white miso
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Add tofu and process for a few seconds to mix it in.
2 Tablespoons tofu (any kind)
Transfer pesto mixture to a bowl and stir in
The cooked onions and vegetables
Stuff the mixture into the 8 cooked shells. Transfer the shells to a baking dish, pour vegetable stock into the bottom of the dish, cover tightly with foil, and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
1/3 cup vegetable stock (see additional stock needed below)
While the shells are baking, make a pan sauce.
Sauté shallot in vegan butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the shallot is softened and starting to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
½ Tablespoon vegan butter
1 small shallot, minced (about 1/8 cup)
Add vermouth or wine and boil rapidly until pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes.
¼ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine (sauvignon blanc recommended)
Add broth and boil rapidly, 4-5 minutes, until there is about ½ cup of liquid left.
¾ cup vegetable broth
Pre-blend the cornstarch and the water, then whisk the following ingredients into the skillet and bring to a boil while whisking. The sauce should come together in about 30 seconds.
1 teaspoon cornstarch whisked together with 1 Tablespoon cold water until no lumps remain
2 Tablespoons unsweetened nondairy milk (I like soymilk)
½ teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/3 teaspoon dried
If the sauce is too thick, add more broth, water, or nondairy milk.
When you are ready to serve, ladle a bit of sauce onto each plate, place the shells on top, then spoon on more sauce and top with breadcrumbs.
Toasted breadcrumbs (you may not need all the breadcrumbs you made)
The remaining toasted pine nuts
Timing: Between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on how much you can multitask
Nutrition: Mostly whole-food (except for the vegan butter in the gravy, the 2 teaspoons oil in the pesto, and refined-flour pasta shells)
Gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta shells