Did you ever like chicken parmesan? I didn’t. I just never found anything appealing about a bland slab of chicken, covered with a thick coating of crumbly bread scraps, fried until completely saturated with grease, and adorned with a soggy, viscous mass of fatty, slimy cheese. (I’m sure there are people out there to whom that sounds delectable. I pity them.) No, to me, chicken parmesan was just a sad way to ruin the perfectly good pasta that tends to come served beneath it.
What does sound promising, however, is the looser concept of a seasoned and cooked protein paired with a pasta and topped with a rich marinara sauce—which brings us to this delightful recipe, another winner from my favorite magazine. I kept the original spirit, but made it a little easier and a bit more flavorful. One simple swap made it instantly vegan.
8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
14-oz. pkg extra-firm tofu, rinsed
1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 tsp olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely shredded
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1+ cup marinara sauce (storebought or homemade)
6T vegan mozzarella (optional)
2T chopped fresh basil or parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions; drain when done. Combine the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt in a shallow bowl. (Alternatively, just use Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs.) Cut the tofu crosswise into six “steaks” and pat them dry. Dredge both sides of the tofu in the breadcrumb mixture.
Heat 2 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and garlic, and cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the remaining 1T (3 tsp) oil to the pan and then add the tofu steaks.
Cook until browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn over and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
Spoon the onion/carrot mixture over the tofu.
Pour the marinara on top and sprinkle 1T of the mozzarella on each piece (if desired—I could care less about cheese, but I admit it does look prettier this way).
Cover and cook until the sauce is hot and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with the basil or parsley.
Serve each tofu steak atop a mound of spaghetti, spooning the extra sauce from the pan alongside.
The tofu strikes that perfect balance between tender and chewy, the breadcrumb coating adds just the right amount of seasoning, and the marinara is marvelously livened up by the fresh vegetables. Those crazy carnivores can keep their foul, oil-drenched, saturated-fat-laden fowl. I’m too busy with this deliciousness to feel bad for them anymore.
Yield: 6 servings. Per serving: 319 calories, 10.7g fat (1.7g sat), 40.7g carbs, 5.1g fiber, 18g protein.