As part of our Kindness Project, we are trying to not only be kind to other humans, but also to animals and the environment. An easy way to do that is to eat less meat. Globally we currently raise 60 billion animals each year for food, which if you do the math (and I didn’t) comes up to ten animals for every human on earth. 36 millions cows a year are killed in the US alone for food, and the numbers are rising: since 1980 the global production of pigs and chickens have quadrupled, and the production of cattle has doubled. With that huge quantity (over one third of the available land on our planet goes to livestock for food consumption!), the sad truth is that we have no other options besides factory farming. I won’t get on my high horse about that (as this horse is already pretty darn high), but the only way to reduce the cruelties of factory farming and its impact on our environment is to demand less meat.
We’re not going to stop eating meat, or dairy, or eggs because we are Southerners and more importantly we are Texans, which means that we like a good amount of animal products in our diets. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t eat LESS.
So, I’ve been exploring meat-free dishes. I’ve had some highs (lasagna!) and I’ve had some lows (tempeh, also known as I Hate Myself so I’m Eating Cardboard). This week I attempted to make a new vegetable lasagna dish, only to discover that I didn’t have nearly as many lasagna noodles buried in the back of the pantry that I thought I did. Normally this situation freaks me out: I am a strictly by-the-recipe kind of cook, with little tweaks here and there. It was Sunday, I’d already been grocery shopping, and there was no way that I was going to leave the house in my ratty shorts and tank top. I had to do what my Type A personality hates to do: improvise. And it was actually kind of awesome. Here’s what I did:
Baked Fusilli with Roasted Vegetable Marina (look, I even gave it a name!)
3 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 medium zucchini, unpeeled and chopped into small pieces (so the kids won’t notice)
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and chopped finely
1 large red onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley (you could use fresh; this is just what I had on hand)
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup grated Mozzarella cheese
One box pasta, any shape you like (I used whole wheat fusilli)
3 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I use Newman’s Own Cabernet Marinara)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Red pepper (if desired)
- Spray a large roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well until the vegetables are coated with the seasonings. Roast, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
- While the vegetables are roasting, cook pasta according to package directions.
- In a large pot or skillet, heat the spaghetti sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste.
- After the vegetables have roasted, add them to the spaghetti sauce. Mix well and adjust seasonings as necessary.
- Add drained pasta to the sauce and mix well.
- Pour sauce/pasta mixture into a greased 13×9” baking pan.
- Nestle dollops of ricotta cheese among the pasta.
- Top with mozzarella and Parmesan
- Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.
That’s it! All three girls and my carnivorous husband devoured it, and I even impressed myself a little. I would have posted a picture, but, um, we kind of ate it all.
*All my high horse information was taken from “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman