I know I’ve been on a bit of a texturized vegetable protein (TVP) kick lately, which I apologize for, but ground beef prices have been awful around these parts, and I just can’t get myself to fork over a wad of cash for it. That being said, you can always substitute ground meat for TVP in any “meat-based” recipe on RKP. And usually, vice-versa. You can also use leftover spaghetti in this dish and just add topping and bake it for a new meal.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Start a pot of water boiling for cooking the dry spaghetti. We won’t linger on this.
In a large, deep skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil or margarine over medium heat. Throw in a fresh, chopped onion and a chopped bell pepper, or be lazy like me and throw in the frozen equivalent.
Immediately add 1 cup of dry TVP granules and another tablespoon margarine if necessary. Add 1 beef boullion cube, and use a wooden spoon to move the TVP around in the sauteeing mixture for a couple of minutes. This gives the TVP a chance to pre-brown a little bit, preventing excessive mushiness later.
While you’re prebrowning the TVP, sprinkle 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1-1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (whatever you like; I used oregano, basil and fennel seed), and about 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder over the mixture.
This will help marry the spices and also darken the TVP to resemble beef.
(Meanwhile, you can throw 1/2 lb. of dry pasta into your now-boiling pot of water. Keep it al dente — you don’t want to start out with overcooked pasta.)
As soon as the TVP has taken on a slightly more yellowish tone all over than when you began, add 1 cup water or leftover black coffee and continue to stir-fry for a minute or so until the water is mostly absorbed. If you like mushrooms, it’s great to throw a small (4-ounce), drained can of mushrooms in at this point for added texture.
Dump in 1 small (6-ounce) can of tomato paste, 1 medium (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, and 1 large (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce.
Increase heat to MED-HIGH and heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Drain the now-cooked pasta and dump into the skillet with the sauce. Stir to coat evenly.
Coat a regular-sized baking pan with nonstick spray and transfer as much of the mixture as possible into the pan. Do not mound it up higher than the pan sides.
Sprinkle the mixture with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese. Decorate with additional italian seasonings if desired.
Bake uncovered dish for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown and melted.
Remove the pan from the oven and let stand a few minutes before cutting into it with a sharp spatula. I love the way it cuts into little uniform squares. So tidy!