Vegetarian Sun Oven Bolognese Sauce

Lentil Sauce

The trick to enjoying whole wheat pasta is finding the right sauce. The bolder flavor of whole grains might over power more delicate toppings. This hearty sauce pairs perfectly with just about any shape whole wheat pasta, from spaghetti to fusilli.

Lentil Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 leek, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

8 ounces dried brown lentils, picked over, rinsed, and drained

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 can (15-ounce) crushed tomatoes

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving.

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

Heat the oil in a large enamelware pot place on a heat defuser over medium-high heat (if you don’t have a heat defuser use a Dutch oven or other heavy pot. It will take a little longer for the sauce to cook but the end result will be the same). Add the leek, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add the drained lentils stirring to coat. Turn the heat up and add the wine, stirring until evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Add the thyme and bay leaf, cover and transfer to the Sun Oven. Cook until the lentils are soft, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta. Dust each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

 

 

Take and Bake Pastitsio

Pastitsio

A lot of non solar prep work goes into this Greek inspired baked pasta. Luckily, it can all be done the night before. The next day all you’ll have to do is heat up the Sun Oven and pop it in. It’s great for picnics, especially if you’re somewhere where you can set up the Sun Oven.

Vegetarian Pastitsio

Ingredients

For the Pasta:

12 ounces dried penne pasta

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 can (13-ounces) evaporated whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup small-curd cottage cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

For the Vegetable Topping:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 can (7 1/2-ounces) tomato sauce (or 1 cup homemade)

3 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 package (11-ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Lightly butter a deep casserole, set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly to prevent browning, for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the evaporated milk, whisking constantly. Cook the sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the white sauce into the eggs. Mix in the remaining sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and drained pasta. Spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole dish and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the basil.

Spread the thawed spinach over the pasta in the casserole dish and spoon the tomato sauce over the spinach. (Can be prepared up to this point the night before, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake) Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, cover with a lid or aluminum foil and a dark dish towel. Bake in the Sun Oven until bubbling, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 

Veggie Balls for Pasta and More.

Lentil Balls

Serve these over spaghetti with your favorite tomato sauce or use them in meatless ball sandwiches. Double the recipe and freeze half (before baking) for future use.

Mini Lentil Balls

(adapted for the Sun Oven from The Meatball Shop)

Ingredients

1 cup dry lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

4 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 t0 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Spray two mini-muffin pans with cooking spray, set aside.

Put the lentils in a pot with enough water to cover them by an inch (use very hot water for faster cooking) cover and cook in the Sun Oven until soft but not mushy, 35 to 45 minutes. Drain and let cool. Leave the Sun Oven out.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and continue cooking for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened and the all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and let cool. When the vegetables are cool add the lentils followed by the egg, cheese, 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts. If the mixture is too moist add more bread crumbs as needed. Use your hands to mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Refrigerate the mixture for 25 minutes.

Roll the mixture into balls and place them in the prepared mini-muffin pans. Use a rack to separate the two pans and stack them in the Sun Oven. Bake until firm, about 45 minutes. Let rest in pans before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

Sneaky Mac and Cheese with Tofu

Tofu Mac and Cheese

It’s the end of the year and time for something new. This week I’ll be experimenting with some of my least favorite foods. Not the ones I can’t stand. The ones I don’t really care for. The ones I’ll politely eat if I’m a guest but rarely, if ever, prepare at home. Among those foods, tofu used to at the top of my list. Over the past year I’ve learned to use it as an hidden ingredient and it’s lost its most disliked food status, but it still makes the top 10.

Silken Tofu Mac and Cheese

(adapted for the Sun Oven from grouprecipes.com)

Ingredients

9 ounces (dry) pasta, cooked according to the package directions until al dente, drained

12 ounces cauliflower florets, steamed or microwaved until soft

1 carton (12-ounces) silken tofu

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup milk, hot

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons dried bread crumbs

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Put the steamed cauliflower, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add the Cheddar, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and pepper and process again until smooth. Put the cooked pasta in a large bowl and pour the sauce over it. Stir well than spread the mixture out in the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the pasta. Cover the pan with another baking pan or lid and transfer to the Sun Oven. Cook until bubbly and golden on top. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Solar Simmered Classic Tomato Sauce

Simple Sauce

There’s probably not a household in Italy where this sauce does not appear on the table at least once a week. There also is probably not a single household where the home cook bothers to measure the ingredients; and you shouldn’t either. The quantities below are only a guideline. Just chop up equal amounts of onion, carrot, and celery to measure about 1 cup total and lightly sauté them in the oil. The choice of tomatoes is, on the other hand, essential to a successful outcome. Choose high quality, preferably imported, canned or boxed tomatoes that contain no other ingredients – no salt, no citric acid, no seasonings. My preferred brand is Pomì.

Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup onion, finely chopped

1/3 cup carrot, finely chopped

1/3 cup celery, finely chopped

2 cups strained or chopped Imported tomatoes

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté briefly. Add the carrot and celery and sauté for about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover and transfer to the Sun Oven. Cook until the flavors have blended and the oil has separated from the sauce, about 1 hour. Serve over pasta.

 

Make and Bake Pasta

Sausage Penne

This time of year, with fewer hours of sunlight and more chance of cloudy days, I like to do my prep work the night before. If the atmospheric conditions are favorable I’m ready to pop dinner (or lunch) in the Sun Oven and if clouds roll in I use a conventional oven.

Baked Penne and Sausage

(adapted for the Sun Oven from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family)

Ingredients

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into matchsticks

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

2 Italian sausages, (pork, turkey, or chicken) casings removed

8 ounces whole-wheat penne

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Coat a 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes with their juices until mostly smooth, about 5 pulses.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the sausage, stirring with a wooden spoon to break it up. Cook until no longer pink. Stir in the processed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is cooking, bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until almost al dente, slightly less than the time indicated on the package. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Add the sauce and the reserved cooking water to the pasta, tossing to combine. Spread half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella. Repeat with remaining pasta and cheese. Cover the baking dish with tin foil and a dark kitchen towel. Bake in the Sun Oven until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted, about 45 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

To Make Ahead

After draining the pasta, rinse it under cold water until cool. Assemble the dish as directed with cooled pasta, cooled sauce and pasta water. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before baking in the Sun Oven.

Makes 4 servings.

Surprise Squash

Chili Squash

Stuffed squash is one of my favorite lunches. I really don’t follow a recipe when I make it. I just go with whatever leftovers I have in my fridge. It comes out different ever time. Today’s combo was surprisingly good.

Chili Stuffed Squash

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt

1 medium Kabocha squash

1/2 can (14-ounce) vegetarian chili

1/2 can (14-ounce) diced tomatoes with green chiles with juices

1/2 packet (3-ounce) tempeh, crumbled

1/4 cup frozen corn kernels

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 tablespoons orzo shaped pasta

1/4 cup water

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

Cut off the top of the squash to make a lid. Scrape out and discard the seeds. Rub the inside of the squash with the olive oil, season with salt. Place the squash in a pot, set aside. In a large bowl combine the chili, diced tomatoes, tempeh, corn, garlic, and pasta. Spoon the mixture into the prepared squash. Pour in the water. Cover with the top part of the squash. Cook in the Sun Oven until tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Use a large spoon to scoop filling and squash onto plates.

Makes 4 servings.

 

 

Classic Tomato Sauce with a Twist

Choco Sauce

While chocolate is used in al sorts of South American recipes it’s rarely an ingredient in savory Italian foods. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Surprise Solar Sauce

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ounce dark chocolate (80% cocoa or more), chopped

1 carton (26-ounce) Pomi chopped tomatoes*

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Chopped fresh basil

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat.

In a medium pot, combine the oil, garlic, red pepper, chocolate, tomatoes, and salt. Cover with a dark kitchen towel and a lid. Cook in the Sun Oven until the flavors have blended, about 1 hour. Stir in the basil and adjust for salt. Serve with pasta and Parmesan cheese.

Makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta.

*your favorite brand of crushed or strained tomatoes can also be used

Covered Pot

A kitchen towel placed under the lid will absorb any excess moisture and keep the sauce for getting watery.

 

Sun Oven Pumpkin Pasta Bake

Pumpkin Lasagna

This easy to assemble vegetarian lasagna is bursting with fall colors and flavors.

Pumpkin and Mushroom Lasagna

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion

8 ounces fresh mushroom, sliced

2 cups baby spinach, washed and dried

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup canned pumpkin

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried sage

pinch of ground nutmeg

6 no-boil lasagna noodles

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving

Preparation

Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms, stirring often, until softened; about 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, evaporated milk, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, sage and nutmeg. Spread 1/4 cup of the pumpkin mixture over the bottom of the prepared dish and top with 2 noodles. Spread 1/2 cup of the pumpkin over the noodles. Top with 1/2 of the mushroom mixture, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the ricotta, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Repeat layers. Top with the remaining 2 noodles and pumpkin sauce. Cover and bake in the Sun Oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Dust with additional Parmesan. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Sun Oven Lunch in No Time

Tortellini

A solar cooked lunch doesn’t get any easier than this. Just combine equal parts water and packaged dry tortellini in a pot. Cover, preferably with a glass lid, and cook in a preheated Sun Oven. Heat your favorite sauce in a separate pot next to or under the pot with the pasta. When the pasta has absorbed the water, usually after about 40 minutes,  it’s ready. Toss it with the sauce and enjoy. Dried tortellini can be found in the same aisle as regular pasta. I haven’t tried this with the refrigerated types of tortellini. I’m sure it would work, but imagine you’d need to use less water.

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