from VegNews Magazine, May/June 2009. Recipe by Allison Rivers Samson

For the pasta:
4 quarts water
1 tbsp salt
12 ounces ziti (which I couldn’t find at my market, so I used whole wheat penne)
For the tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c onion, diced
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 28-oz can fire roasted tomato puree (I used chunks)
1 tsp salt
For the ricotta:
1 1/2 c macadamia nuts, soaked in water for a minimum of four hours
1/4 c water
1/8 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
For the cashew cream:
3/4 c raw cashews
1/8 tsp dried dill
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 c water
1/4 tsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp fresh parsley, minced and divided

To prepare the pasta, in a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add ziti and cook until al dente. In a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

To prepare the sauce, in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and onion, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Reduce heat to low. Add tomatoes and cover loosely. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and cook for another 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, add soaked macadamia nuts, water, garlic, salt, and olive oil. Puree for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and puree another minute. Repeat until ricotta is light and fluffy. Set aside.

To prepare the cashew cream, in a blender, add cashews and grind into a fine powder. Add dill, salt, lemon juice, water, and rice vinegar, and process until completely smooth.

In a large bowl, toss ziti with marinara sauce and 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley. Gently stir in ricotta, leaving small chunks. Swirl in cashew cream and pour into a deep 9×13-inch casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with fresh parsley. Makes 6-8 big servings.

Prepare to have your mind blown. This dish was so good! Rich, filling, creamy, flavorful… the ricotta alone! I’ll be using that in other dishes for sure.
I started to get really frustrated with all the dishes and the time investment (turns out this is not the best dish to make after putting baby to bed on a weeknight that also happens to be diaper laundering night…), but it was SO WORTH IT. I bet it would freeze well! The leftovers were really tasty two days later. If you don’t mind an extra dish (really, after using the food processor and the blender, what’s one more?), it would shave off some time to cook the pasta while the tomato sauce is cooking. I don’t think I’ve ever had traditional ziti, but the penne seemed like it worked just fine. And perhaps my tomato chunks were a faux pas, but I sure enjoyed them. It made it seem just a little more gourmet, and gave it just a little added texture. And cooking those onions on medium-high heat? No. Try medium at most! It only took a few minutes, and I had to remove the pan from the heat to keep my herbs and garlic from burning. Just a little warning if you try this dish. Which you should. Because it’s BOMB. I can’t believe it took me a year to try this one! I’m going to make a gluten-free version for my sister one of these next few visits. I can’t wait!
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