Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Night Dinner: Za Za Ziti with Spinach Salad

Sunday Night Dinners are back in la casa de La Vegan Loca and I couldn’t think of a better way to revive the tradition than with an Allison Rivers Samson recipe. As you may recall, she’s the creatrix of The Best Mac n’ Cheese Ever and the Clam-Free Chowdah that was so good, I couldn’t get pictures of it before it was devoured. So when I saw she had another recipe in the latest issue (May/June 2009) of VegNews, I knew it would be the one to usher Sunday Night Dinners back into our home.

Her latest offering is called Za Za Ziti and it is beyond indulgent. I must confess, when I read the recipe I was a little skeert. The Husband and I are still working diligently on loosing weight and Allison’s Ziti has macadamia nut ricotta cheese and a cashew cream sauce. That’s on top of fire roasted tomato saucy pasta. We weigh in every Sunday morning, so I strategically planned the meal in order to maximize “recovery time” before our next weigh-in. By the by, see the bottom of this blog post for the results of this morning’s weigh-in.

While reading it, I also noted there are several steps to the recipe. In order to get the most out of my Sunday, I spilt the work up over the course of the day. I started soaking the nuts for the macadamia nut ricotta cheese just before lunch. I also threw the cashew cream sauce together while I was in the kitchen, because it’s a quick and easy food processor or blender job.

Come mid-afternoon, I hopped back in the kitchen and made the tomato sauce.

When it was time to get serious about dinner, I had the three main components prepared so all I needed to do was boil the pasta, throw it together and bake it. No problem! Sure, there were some extra dishes to be washed, but this meal is worth it. I assure you. Besides, The Husband did all the dishes tonight. ☺

While the ziti was baking, I made an Italian salad with baby spinach, some extra macadamia nut ricotta cheese, toasted pine nuts, fresh Roma tomatoes, and hearts of palm. I tossed it with Newman’s Own Lighten Up Italian Dressing, which next to a big pile of Za Za Ziti is kinda like having your donuts with a diet coke, but whatever. It was tasty and I didn’t have to make a dressing.

We sat down to eat and both The Husband and I were shocked at how luscious this dish is. Some of the little bits of pasta that were sticking up got all crispy and nummy while baking which was an awesome contrast to the creamy goodness beneath. It was a very quiet dinner. And you know the food is good when nobody’s talking!

My notes for this recipe are:
  1. I had to add a bit of extra water both to the cashew cream sauce and the macadamia nut ricotta cheese in order to get the proper texture and consistency. No problem there, just an FYI. These things happen particularly when you’re measuring things like nuts by volume rather than by weight.
  2. Next time, I’ll make extra cashew cream sauce because the pasta soaked up most of it. I’m sure that added to the flavor, but the sauce was so delicious on its own, I think the dish would be even better with a bit of it drizzled over the top after it comes out of the oven.
  3. Lastly, plan ahead. Like I said earlier, this is a multi-step recipe. You can’t wait ‘til late afternoon (when I usually start thinking about dinner) to start putting this baby together. It’s seems like a lot of work when you look at it, but if you break it up into manageable chunks, like I did, you’ll be fine.
That’s it for notes. I have no criticisms. Za Za Ziti rocks the Casbah. I’m officially an Allison Rivers Samson devotee. Try this recipe, or any of her others for that matter, and you will be too.

As for our weigh-in this morning, we rocked it. We dominated Team Red with a Blue Team total loss of 6 pounds this week. The Husband lost 4 and I lost 2. Now it’ll be interesting to see if we can recover from Za Za Ziti and register another loss next weekend. But we were smart and offed the leftovers as soon as we were done eating. We ended up feeding a family of four omnis with what was left in the pan and got rave reviews. They couldn’t believe it didn’t have any dairy cheese.

Winner, winner, chickpea dinner! Now I'm going to roll myself onto the couch and bask in the afterglow of my temporary self-indulgence. 


Sal said...

the ziti looks great! when I used to do weight watchers, I used to weigh in friday mornings, so that I could be 'bad' at the weekend and have a week to make up for it!! haha.

Jeni Treehugger said...

That Ziti sure does look good and I'm loving the sound of the ingredients. Did I completely miss the link for the recipe or is it not available online??

Marni said...

Thanks, Sal! When your dieting, you have to do stuff like that or you feel too deprived, right? Besides, it gives you something to look forward to. :)

Jeni: Thank you! No, you didn't miss the link, it's not on the internet, yet. But it'll most likely end up on the VegNews website when the next issue comes out. So keep checking there. It's so freakin' good!

jessy said...

hooray for sunday night dinners, Marni! i need to get the latest copy of VegNews so i can make Allison’s ziti! mmmmmmmm! it sounds heavenly and look awesome! i love breaking up prep for big recipes like you did, too! it’s nice not to stand in the kitchen all day! too awesome on your spouse being on dish duty! superw00t! your spinach salad sounds rock’n, too (and it's so pretty!)! thanks for the notes as well – i am totally printing them off right now! nice job on the Blue Team 6 pound loss, Marni! wahoooooooooo! and i’d like to say hooray for indulging a little as well! isn’t it the best?! i’m glad the zita was worth it!

p.s. - ipanema made the walnut coffee chocolate chip cookie cake, but you better believe that i'm in the process of making it myself. i'm working on creating an awesome chocolate chip cookie bar recipe and adding in lots of walnuts & some coffee, too! i will totally post the recipe if i am successful! wish me luck! ahahahhaaa! yay!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the weight loss!


Erin said...

Looks absolutely delicious! Ziti does seem so "normal" that you might not expect anything outstanding. Congrats on the weight loss too! 6 pounds together is fantastic, you guys must be serious. I'm happy to lost 1/2 a pound per week, and semi-content just to maintain :)