I might have mentioned that I am intolerant of lactose — even when it comes from sheep and goats. I also adore Italian food, unfortunately, because it is one of the most cheese-centric of all cuisines.
Therefore, I have had to develop a lactose-free lasagna recipe that was good enough to distract from the fact that I am not in Italy, nor am I going to Italy anytime soon! (I even served my vegan lasagna at a dinner party — and people asked for seconds — picky, Berkeley foodie people. ‘Nuf said.)
By the way, when I Googled, “Come fare la lasagna” (how do you make lasagna?) in Italian, mostly because I wanted to know how to spell it (lasagne or lasagna?), I was pleased to find recipes that included the noodle-making as the first step and less pleased to find a site called Al Femminile.com that seemed to be the sort of ladies’ magazine that has gone out of fashion here decades ago for being far too condescending and girlie. If you tell Google to search sites in other countries, you do find out the darndest things! And lasagna is just the singular of lasagne, which I would have realized immediately, had I not let my high school Latin lapse so completely, let alone my college Italian.
Barring that, or if your foot is busted, you can use Giorgio Baldi sauce in a jar — the best (and only) tomato sauce from a jar I have ever had that tastes like the real thing. When I say the “real thing,” I am referring to the hand-bottled tomato sauce from his Calabrian mother that an Italian admirer pulled out when he was making me pasta’scuit‘ (pronounced past-a-shoot, meaning dried, as opposed to fresh pasta). I knew nothing about Giorgio Baldi, or his sauce, until I did break my foot and my mother happened to bring it to me. In other words, I would never have discovered it if I hadn’t been injured because I am supremely unlikely to spend that kind of money on sauce from a jar which is usually guaranteed to disappoint anyway. Giorgio Baldi did not. He astonished. I just learned from the miracle of the internets that his is a restaurant on the water in Santa Monica and I am saddened that I didn’t know about him when I lived in LA and determined to visit the next time I am down there. This is a sauce worthy even of ordering online (although they also sell it in select stores) and I am intensely curious how they managed to bottle that kind of authentic flavor, right here in the US. It says they are using San Marzano Italian tomatoes. It’s true that it’s hot enough in LA at times to compete with Calabria so maybe they are growing them right there.
Let the lasagna begin! I discovered Safeway home delivery during this period of invalidation, and even though I don’t normally trust them with things like vegetables, for a dish where everything is going to be baked in the oven anyway, Safeway fodder is just fine. Except the vegan mozzerella — my Mom got that for me at Andronico’s, the fancy gourmet grocery store that replaced the Park N Shop that replaced the Co-op in our neighborhood, the one the world calls the Gourmet Ghetto. A note about Vegan Gourmet cheese, use it fast. Once you open the package, it goes off quickly, no matter how you wrap it.
Vegan Lasagna alla Emilia
1 package good vegan mozzarella (I used Vegan Gourmet)
1 package silken Tofu
24 – 35 oz. of really good, veggie-laden tomato sauce (preferably homemade)
Two small zucchini, sliced thinly
A big onion
2 cloves of garlic
oregano, dill, salt and hot pepper flakes to taste
1 box (1 lb.) lasagna noodles — the kind that must be boiled
Never use those no-boil noodles. They are nasty.
Boil your lasagna noodles, draining about a minute before it says to on the box. Set aside. Drain the tofu and put it in a bowl and pour about 12 oz. of the tomato sauce over it and set aside. (Why? Because this isn’t ricotta, friends. It needs the help, trust me.)
Preheat your oven to 375.
Sauté the onion, adding the zucchini when the onion is soft and turning clear. Let the zucchini get brown and then add the garlic, cooking for just a few more minutes, being careful that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a wide, shallow oven-safe pan and use a paper towel to ensure the oil is well distributed but not pooling.
Layer drained lasagna noodles along the bottom of the pan to make your first layer. Apply sauce, faux ricotta (marinated tofu), vegetables, and finally half your vegan mozzarella. Make another layer of noodles. Repeat, ending with sauce and mozzarella.
Bake for about 30 -40 minutes or until bubbling. The real challenge is getting the “cheese” to melt — no matter how many times it says on the package: “It melts”!
By the way Mom, if you are reading this, I’m out of Earth Balance and olive oil — neither of which they sell at Safeway! I bet she can’t wait for me to be able to walk again. That makes two of us.