Vegan Ziti

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group®  & La Moderna but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #MyExceptionalPasta #GoldenHarvest

It’s vegan ziti!

La Moderna Vegan Ziti // The Pancake PrincessI was shopping for a Halloween party at Walmart the other day and omg dangerous. I came away with so much stuff. I had enough food for a small army and a million pasta recipes in mind. This seems to be becoming part of a pattern because this ziti is actually enough to feed an army. La Moderna Vegan Ziti // The Pancake Princess 

You may or may not know that I freelance for the Houston Press (which is why my posts have slowed down of late)…one of the recurring series I write for them is “taste offs” of the best food items around Houston–I started with chocolate chip cookies, then holiday cookies, then doughnuts, then pizza, chocolate cake and most recently, pie.

The handful of friends who lingered in the sugar-ridden aftermath after sampling and scoring 25 different pies draped themselves over my furniture yesterday. To my surprise, when I unearthed this giant pan of ziti from the fridge, nearly half of it disappeared (probably thanks to the deep cravings for savory foods after an avalanche of sweets).

La Moderna Vegan Ziti // The Pancake PrincessLa Moderna Vegan Ziti // The Pancake PrincessThis pasta recipe is basically a mish mash of all the leftover vegetables I had in my fridge–carrots, celery, a zucchini. I sauteed a huge bunch of carrots, celery and onion into a tomato sauce (inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s naked sauce) tossed it with La Moderna pasta, a new-to-me brand that had a nice chew, was high in protein, and held up well in the dish (I cooked the pasta to just al dente before baking it in the casserole–you can find the pasta here), topped it with sauteed zucchini slices and then a thick layer of vegan ricotta. Made out of tofu, the ricotta is so easy to make–just a whirl in the food processor with some herbs, nutritional yeast and lemon juice, and it’s ready to go.

La Moderna Vegan Ziti // The Pancake Princess

And it will feed a HUGE amount of people, so if you need an easy vegetarian entree for feeding a crowd for the upcoming holidays…keep this in mind.

Vegan Ziti
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 9x13 pan
  • For the tomato sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 1 cup diced vegetables (a few large carrots or a mix of carrots and celery)
  • 1 28 oz can tomatoes
  • ½ can tomato paste
  • dried basil, oregano, salt
  • For the tofu ricotta:
  • 1 14 oz container firm tofu, drained
  • 1.5 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, basil, oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • juice from half a small lemon
  • For the pasta bake:
  • 4 cups La Moderna penne pasta
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  1. To make the sauce:
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery, season with salt and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and season with your desired amount of basil, oregano and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes over medium-low heat, then turn off heat and set aside.
  3. To make the tofu ricotta:
  4. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor. Set aside.
  5. To make the ziti:
  6. Cook the pasta according to directions. Saute the zucchini in olive oil over medium heat until lightly browned.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the pasta and sauce together. Pour the pasta into a prepared 9x13 pan. Layer the zucchini on top, then dollop the tofu ricotta over the top, using your fingers to help spread it around evenly. Bake for 20 minutes until ricotta is browned.

Stovetop Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Today is a special day in the blogosphere: tons of amazing food bloggers are uniting to celebrate one of my all-time faves: Cynthia of Two Red Bowls!

Stovetop Pumpkin Bread Pudding // The Pancake Princess

…because she recently just made the world a little more awesome by adding a tiny new third bowl to the world! Cynthia, who was already one of the world’s cutest humans–as I discovered when we briefly convened over an otherwordly Dough doughnut above Grand Central Station when she kindly took a work break to meet up with me!–was also possibly the world’s cutest and most productive pregnant lady, posting this insane french toast and these ugh-inducing biscuits while also rocking her new law job in sunny SoCal. Just another talent to add to the list in addition to being an absolutely stunning food photo composer, incredibly talented photographer and THE most thoughtful and uplifting commenter to grace the blogosphere.


Stovetop Pumpkin Bread Pudding // The Pancake PrincessStovetop Pumpkin Bread Pudding // The Pancake PrincessBecause Cynthia is the queen of small-batch desserts, I made a small-batch version of pumpkin bread pudding for her virtual baby shower (in a bowl, because we’re honoring her with bowl food). It’s also fully decadent in honor of Cynthia because she is somehow the queen of fully decadent dishes while also remaining tiny because she is magic.

The behind-the-scenes story behind this pudding is: I made Smitten Kitchen’s pumpkin loaf for a Halloween get-together.* Normally I am team no-slice-of-quickbread-left-behind, but after multiple hours of sitting out uncovered, I had a small army of slightly stale pumpkin bread slices on my hands. For maximum ease, I tried cooking it on the stovetop and guess what? You can totally make bread pudding on the stove! (I am mildly obsessed with stovetop cooking.) The pudding turned out dense, cushiony and eggy in the middle with a fluffier outer ring that was basically like normal pumpkin bread, but with super toasty, caramelized edges. I topped it with a dollop of lightly sweetened vanilla cream, but I later added a swoop of caramel on top–and that, my friends, is how you really elevate this creation.

Stovetop Pumpkin Bread Pudding // The Pancake Princess


Ideally, you would let the bread become extremely stale and dried out and then let it bathe in the sweet custard mixture for a few hours before cooking for maximum soft and custardy bread pudding nirvana, but whether you wait or not, it’s a great way to use up perhaps an overzealously large loaf of quickbread or leftovers from a party.

Congratulations again, Cynthia! You are WONDERFUL!

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Strawberry Swirl Biscuits

The first time I met Alanna, I’m pretty sure we spent upwards of 5 hours together making, styling and photographing these chilaquiles. I met her grumpy-adorable cat, Catamus, learned about camera lenses, admired her props cabinet, we chatted about our mutual contact (my food photographer uncle) and a bunch of other topics–one of which was potential book deals.

Raspberry Swirl Biscuits // The Pancake PrincessRaspberry Swirl Biscuits // The Pancake PrincessA second and a third visit brought a dinner party with the incredibly talented PangSarah and Lucas, and a visit to Alanna and Jay’s favorite local Mexican spot. I’m pretty sure the third visit was when she not only fed me a slice of an incredible banana tart chilling in her fridge, but also some chestnut financiers she was testing for the cookbook–and then sent me home with a bag full of raspberry swirl biscuits that for some reason or another hadn’t turned out quite right (in Alanna’s mind, anyway. My family and I promptly consumed her generous offering and I proceeded to dream about the “not-quite-perfect” biscuits for the next 8 or so months).
Raspberry Swirl Biscuits // The Pancake Princess

Now that Alanna’s BEAUTIFUL new cookbook is out, I had to honor it and her with those same biscuits. Alternative Baker celebrates alternative flours in gluten-free recipes where the focus is really on how delicious flours like chestnut, mesquite, oat and corn can be rather than the fact that gluten is missing.

Raspberry Swirl Biscuits // The Pancake Princessimg_8789I’ve made five recipes from the book so far, recipe testing included–the apple, buckwheat and gruyere pancake, chocolate zucchini cake, chocolate cranberry pecan tart with Alanna’s amazing cocoa buckwheat tart crust, pluot poppy muffins and buckwheat pear galettes with walnuts and salty caramel. All of them, without fail, were so much more delicious than any gluten-free recipe I’ve tried in the past. I am really tempted to bake my way through her entire cookbook because each photograph is more beautiful than the last and promises amazing results.

I can’t recommend her cookbook enough, whether you adhere to a gluten-free diet or simply want to expand your baking horizons with completely unique, beautiful and incredibly delicious recipes. Congratulations Alanna–your book is an absolute work of art!!


Alanna makes these biscuits with raspberries, but I was out both times I was ready to make them–one time I subbed strawberries and 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and the other I added 1 1/4 cups of cranberries tossed with 2 tablespoons of sugar (pictured). The optional glaze was a bit sweet in conjunction with the chocolate, but well-received with the tart cranberries. A couple tasters noted a slightly bitter taste in the dough that I didn’t detect, but just something to note–this might totally be resolved by just using raspberries as Alanna wisely advises.

These biscuits have a moist, open, slightly coarse crumb that crisps beautifully at the edges. The fun thing about these is that the texture varies widely with temperature–cold, the dough takes on a sandy consistency that I’m kind of addicted to–warm, the dough is soft, yielding and slightly sticky. Alanna recommends using Bob’s Red Mill’s flour since alternative grains can vary widely in consistency depending on the grind and I found this out the hard way–the first time I made these biscuits with flour that I had (lazily) ground in my nutribullet, the biscuits turned out slightly lumpy and craggier than I remembered. After I ground the flour more finely in the Blendtec for the second round of biscuits, the dough turned out much more smoothly, the rolls of my dreams.

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Wowbutter Cookies (nut-free)

Wowbutter Cookies // The Pancake PrincessIs it really September? Is it just me or like……


Wowbutter Cookies // The Pancake Princess
Wowbutter Cookies // The Pancake Princess
img_8558Wowbutter Cookies // The Pancake Princess
I’m not ready to let the magical summer of Australia and Thailand go…but admittedly, it’s been nice to have down time at home. My roommate and I recently made the move from our 960 sq ft apartment to a duplex in Montrose (the, shall we say, trendy part of Houston) and let me tell you: you should NEVER not hire movers. People told we had to, but neither of us had ever done a big (read: non-college-esque move) on our own, and we figured doing it on our own would be 1) way cheaper 2) a good way to super appreciate movers whenever we need to move again in the future.

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Levain Cookie Experimentations


The original Levain cookie (via Instagram).

Inside the white paper bag was a battlescape of chocolate. Rich ganache snuggled between two slender planks of firm yet yielding brioche had melted out of its neat sandwhich during my sweaty trek across Central Park and seeped into various crevices of the bag, making it impossible to extract the other half of my purchase–the famous chocolate chip cookie–unscathed. But I withdrew the craggy monster of a cookie–hand accumulating chocolate smears–and broke it apart.

People were passing by: a German-looking family, a French couple, a middle-aged Asian woman who decided to sit on the other end of my bench. If they noticed me inspecting my cookie–the golden, ridged edges, the moist interior rich with butter and silky chocolate, the center so gooey and underdone like warm cookie dough that it should be illegal–I only hope they knew where to get their own.

Levain Bakery

And that place, of course, is Levain Bakery in New York. I went in mid-July to visit a friend before she left for a whirlwind tour of the world as a digital nomad, and during a lunch break walked across Central Park to procure the cookie I’d been dreaming about since the lovely Kayle first guided me there during a trip in 2013.

My only regret: at the last minute, I switched my order from a chocolate chip and a dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookie to a chocolate chip and the chocolate chip brioche. The brioche was incredibly chocolatey and a really nice dense but still sufficiently fluffy and rich dough, but where Levain really excels is the cookies and I should have just gone all in. Anyway, the cookie experience was just as otherworldly as I remembered, so when my lovely and very talented personal chef friend, Morgan, asked if I wanted to help her test out the Levain recipe when I got back, the answer was a giant YASSSSSS.*

We tried two recipes, a few alterations and a BUNCH of different baking temperatures and times. While we didn’t do anything earth-shattering to the excellent copycat recipes that already exist on the interwebs, I thought the research that we did in oven temperatures was worth sharing, so here are our results!

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