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Caponata protein-packed pasta with vegan sausage and ricotta

A mouthful of a title and a mouthful of wonderful tangy, creamy, pasta goodness that you can feel good about eating. All the classic caponata flavors plus the high of eating pasta, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, extra protein, and healthy fats.


I got inspired by a New York Times recipe for Caponata pasta, then veganized it, and pumped up the protein factor. It looks and tastes absolutely decadent and yet is very light so you won’t feel sluggish and sleepy after dinner. Also, make the whole recipe as it works quite well as leftovers for lunch the next day.

I was intrigued by the addition of red wine vinegar, capers, and golden raisins to a pasta sauce. Odd flavor combo, so I had to give it a try. So very glad I did! The classic Sicilian version uses tomatoes which would be great in here, but they weren’t part of the recipe I used as my inspiration and I didn’t miss them.

This recipe uses lentil pasta instead of semolina to make it gluten-free as well as twice the protein and four times the fiber. Fiber is your “Food BFF” because it helps keep you full and your digestion (yes, pooping) regular.

I also swapped out the regular ricotta cheese (which you can swap right back in if you desire) for a vegan version made from tofu. This also adds to the protein without dairy. That means it’s vegan and ideal for those with lactose or dairy issues. If you can’t do soy and don’t want dairy, no worries, I’ve added a swap-out for using cashews instead.

Finally, for the last boost of protein, I added some vegan brat-style sausage. I like Beyond and Lightlife. You could add regular sausage, or ground turkey as well. The flavor profile melds perfectly with the caponata profile of eggplant, capers, red wine vinegar, and shallot. If you want to keep this a little lighter, simply omit the sausage. It will still feel like a complete meal.

Servings: 6 | Difficulty: Easy | Prep time: 15 min. | Cook time: 35

Calories: 417 | Protein: 20g | Carbs: 43% | Fat: 18g

Plus 12g (48%) of your daily FIBER

Ingredients

  1. ⅓ cup raisins, preferably yellow

  2. 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  3. ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if desired

  4. 2 small Italian eggplants (2 pounds total), trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

  5. 12 ounces orecchiette (or other shaped pasta)

  6. ⅓ cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 small shallot)

  7. ¼ cup pine nuts

  8. 3 tablespoons drained brined capers

  9. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  10. ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes

  11. ⅓ packed cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, plus more torn leaves for garnish

  12. 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  13. 3 links of vegan (or regular) sausage

Tofu Ricotta

Servings: 10 | Difficulty: Easy | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 0

Calories: 73 | Protein: 8g | Carbs: 5g | Fat: 3g

Ingredients:

  1. 14 oz firm or extra firm tofu (drained)

  2. zest of whole and juice of 1/2 lemon

  3. 4 tbsp nutritional yeast

  4. 2 cloves garlic

  5. 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  6. 1 tbsp dried basil

  7. 1/2 tsp salt

  8. 1/4 tsp pepper

  9. 1 -3 tbsp water (optional)

If you don’t do tofu but want to keep it vegan. Swap the tofu out for 1 1/2 cups of cashews. Soak the cashews for 4 hours – overnight (or if in a rush 15 min in boiling hot water – don’t boil them, just add boiling water). Drain then add to your blender and follow the rest of the recipe.

You can also buy pre-made vegan (and dairy) ricotta. There are great options in tofu form: Toffuti and nut form: Kite Hill. These are both delicious and convenient, but they can be pricey. They can also be a little more processed than when made in your kitchen, so if you want to keep it clean, vegan, and on the cheap, grab your blender/food processor and make it at home. And if you do dairy, grab your favorite brand of ricotta and enjoy it.

Ricotta Preparation

I made this first, because it was super fast and it can just hang out. You can even make it days in advance. Also, make the whole thing. You can spread it on toast and crackers, swirl into scrambled eggs and basically use it any way you’d use regular ricotta or a spreadable cheese dip.

Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor except the water. Pulse/blend to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides. If it seems dry or too chunky for your liking, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time and blend again. It should be a bit like a very thick hummus. Set aside if eating immediately or put in a sealable container and refrigerate up to 7 days.

Pasta Preparation

Sous chef time! Dice your eggplant into 3/4 inch dices. (Tip: consistency is more important than actual size. Make them all more or less the same size as each other, keeping in mind that bigger chunks will take way longer to cook than smaller and might burn a bit using this method). Mince the garlic and finely dice the shallot.

Chiffonade your basil and set aside. Stack the leaves, roll them up tightly then run your knife through them to make little ribbons.

You can also pre-chop your sausage at this point, or cook them whole and chop them up after.

Fill a pot with water for the pasta. I used a large sauce pan and about 1.5qts water. We’ll be utilizing the pasta water for this dish to finish the sauce so you’ll get better results with less water. They still need room to groove though, so 1 – 1.5 quarts is perfect for 8oz lentil pasta or 12 oz semolina.

Next prep the raisins. In a tiny sauce pan, add the raisins, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp sugar, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then let boil for about 2 minutes, uncovered. Turn of the heat and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 1/4 cup of olive oil followed by 1/2 of the diced eggplant. Add a liberal pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook for 7 -8 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will soften, slightly brown, and shrink a bit. When cooked, transfer to a bowl, add another 1/4 cup olive oil and cook the other half of the eggplant and add it to the bowl.

Lower the heat to medium, and add your shallots, capers, pinenuts, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir frequently and cook until shallots are softened, about 3 min. Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant and add the red wine vinegar and 1/3 cup basil.




Drain the raisin and add them to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Add a little more salt and pepper to taste. You are looking for a briny, tangy taste. the pasta and ricotta will mellow them when combined. You can make the sauce up to this point a day or two ahead of time. Perfect for meal-prep!

Put your pasta pot over high heat and cover. Bring to a boil, then uncover, add the pasta (salt the water liberally if you like), and let cook until al dente (just a little firm when bitten). Drain pasta, or use a ladle with holes to move it over to the sauté pan. You want to reserve 1/3 – 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta water heats up, use the same sauté pan to brown up the sausage. When cooked, add the pasta to the pan along with the contents of the bowl with the eggplant. Add 1/3 cup pasta water and stir. If it seems very chunky and dry add a little more pasta water. You want a tiny bit of water, but not very much.

Serve into shallow bowls. Top with a large dollop of the ricotta, more fresh basil, and a tiny drizzle of olive oil. YUM YUM YUM!!

vegan protein caponata
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