Broccoli rabe is one of those fun "new old" vegetables that have started becoming popular in farmer's markets and natural food stores. It has been a feature of cuisine in Italy for quite some time (where it is called rapini) and is just now making its way into trendy American dishes. Although it has little florets that resemble broccoli, it's actually related to the turnip. Broccoli rabe is also more tender than broccoli and has a spicier, earthier, dare I say, more exotic flavor. If you're looking to try out a new vegetable (that really isn't all that new) give this casserole a shot.
First we'll make some Italian style veggie sausage with the help of textured vegetable protein (TVP). I like to hydrate the TVP with vegetable broth and brown sugar. For the sausage, just fry it up in olive oil with a bunch of Italian herbs and spices.
Next, blanch your broccoli rabe for just a minute so it will be tender but still firm after being cooked in the casserole. Some broccoli rabe will come with little yellow flowers that have blossomed from the green florets at the head of the stalks. They are pretty and also quite tasty.
Now it's time to start boiling up your rigatoni. As I've mentioned before, go with a bronze die pasta if you can. Pastas made with bronze dies are always superior.
While the pasta is boiling, get started on your sauce. It has a base of peppers and onions, some whole peeled tomatoes that get mashed in, and a little bit of soy creamer to thicken it up.
Finally, mix everything together with a little bit of Daiya and pour it into a casserole dish. Bake it until the top is lightly browned, then throw some more Daiya on top and bake again until it's all melty and scrumptious. Get ready to dig into some hearty Italian pasta and veggies!
Baked Rigatoni With Veggie Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
2 1/2 cups dry TVP chunks
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dry parsley
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry sage
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, rapini or napini, tough stalks removed, roughly chopped
1 pound dry rigatoni pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup soy creamer
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups Daiya mozzarella style shreds, divided
- Prepare the veggie sausage. Combine TVP, vegetable stock and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until TVP is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the TVP and remaining veggie sausage ingredients. Cook 5-10 minutes or until TVP has slightly browned. Scrape veggie sausage from pan and set aside.
- Prepare the casserole. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9x13” baking dish with cooking spray.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add broccoli rabe. Blanch for 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water.
- Add rigatoni to the water and cook according to package instructions. Turn off heat. Drain the pasta, rinse it with cold water, and return it to the empty pot.
- Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in the pan you used to cook the veggie sausage. Add the onion and pepper and cook 7-10 minutes or until veggies are tender.
- Stir in the whole peeled tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer while crushing open the tomatoes with the back of your spoon. Cook 10-15 minutes or until tomatoes are disintegrating.
- Stir in tomato paste until dissolved while further breaking down the tomatoes into pieces with your spoon. Slowly add soy creamer while stirring and remove from heat.
- Transfer the tomato mixture to the pot with the rigatoni. Stir in veggie sausage, broccoli rabe, salt, pepper and 1 cup of the Daiya until everything is well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Sprinkle remaining Daiya over the casserole and bake for another 5 minutes or until melted. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.