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Inexpensive, full-flavored pasta uses tofu for creamy sauce

Firm or soft tofu can be used to make the sauce for Tofu-Pesto Pasta.Washington Post (Washington Post / The Spokesman-Review)
Firm or soft tofu can be used to make the sauce for Tofu-Pesto Pasta.Washington Post (Washington Post / The Spokesman-Review)

Here’s a dish that’s meatless and subtly flavored, and it costs less than $5 to make. The original recipe calls for soft tofu, because it makes a creamy sauce. But firm tofu can be used as well. If necessary, add a little water while pureeing to achieve the desired consistency.

Serve with a mixed green salad.

Tofu-Pesto Pasta

Adapted from “Eat Cheap but Eat Well,” by Charles Mattocks (Wiley, 2009).

8 ounces button or cremini mushrooms

1/4 medium onion

1 medium vine-ripened tomato

2 to 3 medium cloves garlic

1 large lemon

8 ounces dried fusilli, gemelli or small penne pasta

3/4 cup packed basil leaves (about 30 leaves)

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces soft tofu (may substitute firm tofu; see headnote)

3 to 4 ounces Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

While the water is heating, clean the mushrooms and discard the stems, then cut the mushrooms into thin slices. Mince the 1/4 onion to yield 2 tablespoons. Core and seed the tomato, then cut into small dice to yield about 3/4 cup; discard the juices. Mince the garlic to yield 1 1/2 teaspoons. Squeeze the lemon to yield 2 tablespoons of juice.

Add the pasta to the boiling water; cook according to package directions (about 12 minutes). Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, combine the basil and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a blender or bowl of a food processor; pulse until well blended, then add 1 tablespoon of oil, the tofu, Parmesan to taste, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until smooth.

Pour into a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over low heat. Stir until just warmed through.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a separate medium skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms have yielded their liquid and the onion has softened.

Add to the pasta in the bowl, then add the blended tofu-pesto mixture. Toss to combine, then divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Top with the diced tomato. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition per serving: 432 calories, 19 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 19 milligrams cholesterol, 473 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 4 grams sugar.

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