I am not even a tiny bit Italian but I love Italian food. As a vegetarian you can still enjoy some of the most wonderful grub inspired by Italy. Here is a dish I have always made for my kids. It is cheesy, yummy and great comfort food.
I am not sure what it is about cheese that makes us so happy. I am a little lactose intolerant but I love, love, love cheese. I have always found the best way to make my kids smile (even the grumpy 22 year old) is to make a warm pasta dish with melted cheese on top. I do my best to buy from companies that are kind to their dairy cows and do not add any hormones or antibiotics to their feed. If the cows are not allowed to roam don't bring the cheese home. That wonderful cow has given it's milk to make this beautiful cheese she should at least be able to walk around, eat grass, and feel the sun on her body.
[First you should make a quick garden salad and throw it in the frig to get cold and crispy. My favorite things to put on a salad are pine nuts, feta cheese, onions peppers, greens, sliced grapes or dried cranberries. I dress it lightly with a little pepper, olive oil and white balsamic.]
You might need to go to the grocery store for a few things but most of this stuff you should have.
Spaghetti the really long spaghetti from Trader Joe's is fun you can also buy linguine or rigatoni.
Salt and Pepper.
Spaghetti sauce. If you are in a big hurry just get a jar of your favorite stuff but if you have time for a little slow cooking make your own. There is a "recipe" for my favorite sauce here on the TNV blog just go to the archives for Puta what a Nesca.
Mozzarella cheese. I always have a bag of grated in my freezer but you can slice it if you like.
Parmesan cheese, if you buy that green can I will have to come to your house and pull your hair. You can find Parmesan freshly grated in the dairy section at the grocery.
"Chicken" patties. Almost every soy company has their own version and I like them all. They come in a box of four and look like breaded fast food chicken patties. They are fine in this dish but I wouldn't make a sandwich with them.
Lets get started...
First boil a big pot of water for the pasta (remember pasta likes to swim!).
Then unwrap your patties and put them in a 350 degree oven, I use a cast iron pan because I like the extra iron that comes with cooking in one, it can also go in the oven with no hassles. You can also use a casserole dish. Let them get warmed up and a little brown.
Heat sauce if you are using a jar, and re-warm sauce if you did it from scratch.
Pour sauce over patties, top with cheese(s) then put it back in the oven to get nice and melty. I have always added a layer of finely chopped spinach to the top of my patties before I added the sauce, the kids never noticed and I got them to eat spinach.
Cook your pasta until it is tender, strain and add a little olive oil to keep it from sticking. I like to add some crushed garlic but it can be a little stinky for small children or after dinner romance.
I make a nice pile of pasta add a patty with lots of sauce to the pile, sprinkle with some chopped basil or parsly, a little more parm and YUMMY!
Don't forget your salad and a nice warm loaf of bread if you are not worried about carbs.
I wish I had a gondola...