Ever since I was little I have loved lasagna. I’d ask for it every year on my birthday. Even now, I love it more than Mexican food, and that’s saying something. Alas, my dietary needs pretty much make it a thing of the past.
But anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t like it when someone says I can’t do something. So, I set out to make the most delicious gluten-free, dairy-free (almost vegan) lasagna I could.
Sante thinks I could sell the stuff, and a few people asked for the recipe after I was bragging about on Twitter. So I figured, why not share the love?
Disclaimer: This is a weekend recipe. It usually takes me 1 to 2 hours to make. You could make it in less time, but you’ll be irritated and dinner will be late on a Tuesday night. It’s not a good way to start the week. Trust me when I say, make it on a Sunday.
So first, let’s boil some noodles. When we were in Italy, we had dinner with some Italians who were laughing about their German friends who “had no idea how to cook pasta.”
Get this, the said: They didn’t put salt in the water before they boiled it! And these guys roared with laughter as if it was the most absurd and obvious thing.
After that trip, I boiled my pasta with salt. And now I use Celtic salt, which looks like the stuff put on the roads after a snow storm, but tastes amazing and is pretty good for you, so I hear.
I use brown rice lasagna noodles, Tinkyada to be precise. You can probably use any wheat-free noodles, but these are the best in my opinion. They have texture and flavor. They look like this if you want to look for them in your store.
So, you boil these bad boys for one minute in water with some salt. Then turn off the heat and let them sit in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain them and set them out individually on foil or cookie sheets so they don’t stick to each other. Don’t skip this step. I have and trying to untangle the noodles made me a very unhappy lady.
Meanwhile, brown the meat. Or not. I’m not opposed to eating meat. I often say I’m a vegetarian who enjoys a good steak. That being said, this step requires some thought. If you’re vegan it’s a no-brainer, but the carnivore in me likes it with a little Italian sausage.
Usually I just get one pound of really good Italian pork sausage for this. Staff of Life makes their own and it’s ridiculously good. Make sure you check to be sure the sausage isn’t made with anything containing gluten. (Thanks to Jande for the tip!)
When I wanted to make my man a special meal, I went up to two pounds of sausage. It was a little much for me, but if you’re cooking for hungry folks just finishing a marathon, it’ll be appreciated.
Next, make cashew cheese.
No question about it. These nuts make amazing cheese.
1/4 C brown rice flour
1/2 C soy/almond/rice milk
1/2 to 1 C water
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C pulverized cashews
2/3 C nutritional yeast
1/2 roasted red pepper (optional)
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add flour, whisking it into the butter. After the flour and butter are mixed, slowly add milk, whisking to remove any lumps. Continue with the 1/2 c water, adding more to desired thickness.* Remove from heat.
Put cashews into food processor and pour butter/flour/milk mixture into it. Add salt. Process until smooth, around 30 seconds. Gradually add the nutritional yeast while processing, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Finally add the red pepper. I like my lasagna to have a little zing to it. This will not make it spicy really. It just adds some dimension to the dish. I recommend it, but it’s not required.
(*This will replace your ricotta/cottage cheese in a standard lasagna dish, so you want it to be kind of thick but easy enough to spread. Usually I go with 3/4 cup water. Experiment!)
Now it’s time to get chopping and assembling.
Here’s where the traditional recipe-type stuff starts.
1+ Lb Browned Italian sausage (optional)
Cashew cheese spread (see recipe above)
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 white onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced (I love garlic. If you don’t use less.)
2 zuchinni, sliced
2 yellow squash, sliced
12 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, grated
2 handfuls baby spinach
Big handful of basil
Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C)
Put on some music that makes you happy. Layer four cooked noodles on the bottom of a lasagna pan. Spread half the cashew cheese over the noodles. Add half of browned meat. Sprinkle half onion and garlic pieces over it. Do a little dance. Two-step maybe?
Place half the slices of zuchinni, squash, and mushrooms over. Grate half the carrot over that. Drizzle half the tomato sauce over, add half the spinach and basil leaves. Finally grate a healthy amount of mozzarella over the layer. Season as desired.
Serenade the layer: May I suggest Frank Sinatra? Repeat.
Add final layer of noodles and grate a little more mozzarella on top. Can you tell I love cheese? The pan should be piled high and it should weigh a lot. Congratulations! Spin around with the pan and put it in the oven for 45 minutes. Be patient. Clean the kitchen or do a little dance. Read a book.
Let cool for 5 minutes. If you’re lucky, someone else will cut and serve it. Bon Appetit! Sometimes I serve it with broccoli or an artichoke.
This is great for lunches the next day as well. Sante and I can eat an entire pan in a few days, so we don’t freeze it, but it’s very freezable. Any suggestions are welcome. Enjoy!