Mmm, comfort foods. Gooey cheesiness, covering crispy tofu bits, surrounded by tomato sauce. What’s not to love?Jump to Recipe
This tofu parm is one of my favorite meals. Whenever I’m having a bad day, this is my go-to dinner. Cooking tofu parm takes my mind off things, plus it rewards me with a delicious meal, so it is the perfect solution to a rainy day.
I wanted to recreate some childhood comfort food classics, which inspired me to make this recipe. Every chicken substitute I have found is made from wheat, and as I am allergic to wheat, this makes me so sad. But pressed and breaded tofu is shockingly similar! What a pleasant surprise!
This recipe has a lot of different parts to consider. The tofu, the sauce, the cheese. Personally, I made my own sauce, but you definitely don’t have to – I have also made this with store bought tomato sauce straight out of the jar. I have tried using Miyoko’s and Vio Life’s mozzarella for this recipe, as those are my two favorites. Personally, I think these two brands are the best for dishes that feature mozzarella but choose your favorite vegan mozzarella and I’m sure it will be great!
To begin making the sauce from scratch, start by heating ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep pan or medium pot. Roughly chop ½ yellow or sweet onion, 2 carrots, and 2 stalks of celery and add them to the pan. Add 3 whole cloves of garlic. Cover until the carrots are soft, stirring every few minutes so the onions do not burn.
When the carrots are cooked all the way through, it is time to add the tomatoes and blend. I used a food processor for this part, but you could also use a blender or an immersion blender. If you are using a food processor or blender, transfer the contents of the pan into your chosen blender, and add one 28 oz can of whole tomatoes plus ½ tsp kosher salt and a handful of fresh basil. If you are using an immersion blender, add one 28 oz can of tomatoes to your pot along with ½ tsp kosher salt and a handful of fresh basil. Pulse a few times to blend – I like to keep it a little chunky, but if you want perfectly smooth sauce, blend away! Salt and pepper to taste.
If you do not have a blender, pour the canned tomatoes into a medium bowl and mash with your hands until smooth. Finely chop a handful of fresh basil. Add the tomatoes, salt, and basil to your sauce pot and mix to combine. Your sauce will be chunkier based on how finely you chopped the veggies, but it will still be delicious.
You will want to start with firm or extra firm tofu. You do not want your tofu cutlets to crumble!
You will also want to press your tofu. You can use a tofu press, or you can stack a bunch of heavy things on top of your tofu and hope that nothing falls over. Personally, I do the awkward stacking. I do not know why I have not invested in a tofu press, but I have not. Oh well. Nothing has broken yet! So here are my tips:
- Unwrap and fully drain your tofu, but do not squeeze it unless you know it is an extra firm brand that can handle the squeezing
- Wrap the block of tofu in a clean kitchen towel. This will absorb the moisture.
- Place the wrapped tofu block on top of a plate, plastic cutting board, or baking tray. Place another plate or plastic cutting board on top. You want the objects you use to be flat and at least as large as the tofu block. This will help evenly press the tofu. Do not use a wooden cutting board – they will warp when wet!
- Put something heavy on top. This is where it gets awkward. I use a Dutch oven with a bag of flour. I have also used a stack of books.
- Let it sit there for about an hour, or even longer! If your towel gets soaking wet, you can undo the tower and replace it with a new one. (My tofu laundry is really piling up…)
Once your tofu is pressed, it is time to turn the tofu into oven fried cutlets.
Preheat the oven to 400.
In a small baking dish or shallow plate, mix ½ c breadcrumbs with ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, and ½ tsp dried basil (or Italian herbs). I love the Rice Crumbs from Trader Joe’s, but any breadcrumbs will work. I have used the Kroger brand gluten free Italian herb seasoning and liked that one as well.
Pour enough neutral oil into a baking tray so there is a thick coating across the entire tray, at least ¼ cup.
Slice to tofu into thin rectangular cutlets, about ¼ inch thick. Then press the tofu into the breadcrumbs, making sure each side is coated thoroughly. Place the tofu cutlets into the well-oiled baking tray, making sure none of the pieces are touching. (You do not need a huge space but separating them a bit means they will be crispier all around. I fit one block of tofu per tray.) Put the filled sheet in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes, then check on them. Mine took 25 minutes, but depending on some variables (such as hot your oven runs, how thick you cut your tofu, which rack you put the sheet on) yours might take a little less or more time. It is unfortunately easy to get them too crispy. Like a cracker. No one wants that. They should be slightly browned and crispy, but still bendable.
At this point, you are almost done! Take the tray out of the oven and spoon out dollops of tomato sauce on and around the tofu. (Careful, the hot oil in the tray might splatter a bit when you add in cold sauce. To avoid this, just let the tray sit out of the oven for a few minutes before adding the sauce.) Then add chunks of cheese on the saucy tofu. Put the tray back in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Depending on which cheese you use, it should melt a bit and get gooey, or maybe get a little brown and bubbly. Top with fresh cut basil or parsley.
Now you are ready to serve up cheesy, saucy comfort! This dish goes well with pasta, but honestly, I usually just eat a bowl of it straight out of the oven.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ yellow or sweet onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, whole
- 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
- ½ tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 small handful fresh basil
- 1 block extra firm or firm tofu 14 oz
- ½ cup gluten free breadcrumbs I used the Rice Crumbs from Trader Joe’s
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp dried basil or Italian herbs
- ¼ cup neutral oil or enough to heavily coat the baking tray
- 4-6 oz vegan mozzarella cheese I used Miyoko’s for this recipe, but have also tried it with Vio Life
- Press the tofu for 1 hour, or up to 4 hours. (See notes for tips on pressing tofu.)
- If you are making your own tomato sauce, you can begin this while the tofu is pressing to save on time. If you are using jarred tomato sauce, you can skip ahead to the Tofu Parm section.
- Heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep pan, or medium pot.
- Add the chopped onion, carrots, and celery as well as the whole garlic cloves.
- Cover and cook until carrots are soft, stirring every few minutes so the onions do not burn.
- Once the carrots are soft, add the contents of the pan to a food processor, along with 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, ½ tsp kosher salt, and a small handful of fresh basil leaves. (If you do not have a food processor see the notes below.)
- Pulse a few times until the tomatoes are saucy and the basil has been chopped. I like to keep my sauce a little chunky, but you can blend as much as you want.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- After the tofu is pressed, preheat the oven to 400.
- In a small baking dish or shallow plate, mix ½ c gluten free breadcrumbs, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, and ½ tsp dried basil.
- Pour at least ¼ cup of neutral oil into a baking tray. It should be enough to thoroughly coat the entire tray.
- Slice the pressed tofu into thin, rectangular pieces, about ¼ inch thick.
- Dredge each piece of tofu in the breadcrumb mixture, making sure each side is thoroughly coated. You can press the breadcrumbs into the tofu a bit, but be gentle – the tofu will crumble if you are too rough. Place each breaded piece of tofu in the well oiled baking tray.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then check on the tofu. They should be crispy, but not hard like a cracker. If they are not crispy and browned, keep going. Mine took 25 minutes.
- When the tofu is as crispy as you would like, spoon the tomato sauce on and around the tofu in the baking tray. Careful! The hot oil might splatter! To avoid this, let the pan sit at room temperature for a few minutes before adding the sauce.
- Top with cheese and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melty. Depending on which vegan cheese you are using, this will look quite different. Some get gooey, others brown, others keep their shape until you prod it with a fork.
- Top with fresh basil or parsley, and optional vegan parm.
- Blending the Sauce: If you don’t have a food processor, you can blend the sauce using a blender or immersion blender. If you do not have these either, crush the tomatoes with your hand in a large bowl until they are smooth. Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pan with all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Your sauce will be chunkier, but still tasty. You can make it less chunky by dicing your onion, carrots, and celery smaller.
- Pressing the Tofu: You can use a tofu press, but you can also use items around your kitchen. Drain your tofu and wrap the block in a clean kitchen towel. Place the wrapped tofu on a plate, baking tray, or plastic cutting board – something flat and at least as large as the block of tofu. Place another flat object on top of the tofu. Then place something heavy on top. I use a Dutch oven, but you could also use a stack of books or a bag of flour.