Pasta is one of those foods that has made its way onto the DIETERS DO NOT EAT list. In some circles, it's become akin to eating puppies, and in others, the epitome of cheating on your diet, having no willpower, giving up, etc. I hear it all the time, trust me: ohmygod, I was so bad this weekend: I had pasta AND bread! - and I think it's a little harsh. It's just food. It's one choice in a pile of a whole bunch of other choices you made in a day, and sometimes you just really want that pasta. That's okay.
The tricky thing with pasta - and all refined carbs - is that they do funny things to our bodies. They convert almost immediately to sugar, which raises our blood sugar, triggers insulin release, and tells our cells to store as much fat as possible... which is what sugar is converted to if it's not used right away for energy.
The other tricky bit is that - with all that sugar and starch - we can often have a hard time determining when we're full. It's really easy to overeat these white starchy foods, because they break down so quickly, giving the body the illusion that it hasn't yet had a full meal.
Plus, starches are a quick form of energy, which our highly evolved human bodies really like: that means we're more prone to not be able to stop eating them and develop addiction-like tendencies towards them. (The Lay's "Betcha Can't Eat Just One" campaign was entirely scientific in that respect.) ;0)
So. Pasta. Not the food of the devil, but not super awesome for us.
And yes! Sometimes that pasta craving comes a-calling. Wouldn't it be awesome to have something that accomplishes the same foodie experience, without the upset tummy, guilt and bloat for days?
VOILA! Eggplant masquerading as pasta to the rescue!
Cannelloni, traditionally, is composed of tubes of pasta stuffed with cheese and sometimes meat, baked with sauce and (usually) more cheese.
This version, totally veganized and gluten-free and so tremendously addictive but in a good way, is made instead with roasted eggplant, vegan cheese and greens, along with homemade sauce. You can feel free to add in plant-based 'meaty' elements, too, if you wish: chickpeas or lentils, tempeh bacon, even roasted sweet potato would be great rolled up in these, especially if you're looking to up the indulgence factor.
Three steps to get you started:
1// Roast eggplant.
2// Make sauce.
3// Compile roasted eggplant, vegan cheese and sauce and bake to make 'em all melty.
Pasta, purified? Maybe that's going a little far, but these really are delish (and without the side helping of needless food guilt, they're even better).
- 1 large eggplant, sliced into 6 long strips
- olive oil for cooking
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large can whole or diced tomatoes
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 ½ tbsp Italian seasoning
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp basil
- 1 tsp sea salt, or more to taste
- black pepper to taste
- 1 cup shredded or cubed vegan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Brush eggplant with oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Spread eggplant on foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes, then flip and cook 15 minutes more.
- Heat oil, add spices.
- Add onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant.
- Remove half the onions and garlic and set aside.
- Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer.
- Remove eggplant from the oven and reduce heat to 295F.
- Spread out eggplant on a cutting board or clean work surface.
- Place a small spoonful of cheese and a scoop of reserved onion mixture onto one end of each eggplant slice and roll up longways so filling is enclosed.
- Place in casserole dish and spoon sauce over the top.
- Transfer casserole to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until cheese melts and cannelloni are heated through.
- Serve immediately.