Ziti al forno (baked ziti, from The Sopranos)

Ziti al forno

Served with red cabbage salad, mixed bean salad and carrot/swede mash

I’ve been watching The Sopranos back-to-back for some time now, and the amount they talk about and show food has rubbed off on me.  One meal in particular is “Karen’s last ziti,” which is also made by Carmela.  What is baked ziti?  It’s tube-y pasta with meatballs and cheese.  So I’ve decided to modify it so it’s animal-free, and put it up on the blog.  Maybe I’ll only make food I’ve seen Carmela Soprano make from now on…(!)

I had some help from Ziti al Forno (Stella’s Recipe Page), Ziti Al Forno (Food.com),  Sunday Gravy (Food.com), Jessica’s Vegan Bolognaise Sauce (VegWeb.com), and Amazing Lentil Meatballs (VegWeb.com). I’ve learned what ‘gravy’ means to Americans — it’s a tomato-based sauce, not quite the same as here in Britain.

Ingredients — lentil meatballs

  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • vegetable oil

Ingredients — gravy/sauce

  • 6 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced.
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 carton passata
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mixed Italian herbs
  • 1 tsp bouillon powder
  • lots of fresh basil finely chopped, or 2 squirts of basil in a tube
  • 1 tsp worcester sauce (fish-free kind)
  • black pepper

Ingredients — the rest

  • 450g ziti pasta (I had to use 300g penne instead, but it worked)
  • 1 packet mozzarella “Sheese“, half sliced/flaked, half grated
  • Half pack cheddar “Cheezly“, grated (in place of romano or parmagiano)
  • Large handful hard “Vegusto“, grated (in place of ricotta)


  1. Make the meatballs first.  Cook the lentils for 10-15 minutes, and put the oven on to 230 °C.
  2. Add all the other meatball ingredients except oil into a large bowl.  Add the (rinsed) cooked lentils and make into balls (12 – 16 balls).  Lightly fry them.
  3. Finish the meatballs in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or longer if they are larger.
  4. Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet, until al dente.  Meanwhile, begin the sauce by frying the onions for 5 minutes, then adding the garlic, tomato purée and stirring.  The meatballs should come out of the oven, and turn it down to 180  °C.
  5. Continue with the sauce, adding the other ingredients except the herbs and basil.  After simmering for 10 minutes, add the herbs then use a hand blender to make it smooth.  Pop in the meatballs to the sauce.
  6. In a large bowl, add all the pasta, half the sauce and half the grated Cheezly, then toss. Spoon half of this into the dish, and spread half the Sheese on top (the sliced/flaked half).
  7. Pour on some more sauce, then the rest of the pasta, then the rest of the sauce.  Add the rest of the grated “cheeses” to the top.
  8. Bake with tin foil on top for 30-40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10-15 minutes.  (Cook for longer if using one large dish; I had to divide mine between two dishes.  Also, using non-animal products means you need to reduce cooking time.)  Allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Ziti al forno - out the oven

Out the oven – you may prefer to have ‘splats’ instead of grated “cheese” on top, to show off the meatballs.


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