I like to think that lasagna is one of the foods that put me on the culinary map. Maybe not any culinary map you’ve ever looked at, but at least my friends and family’s maps. The lasagna I’ve learned to make is the very authentic lasagne bolognese al forno, completely from scratch, with fresh pasta noodles, all-day simmered meat sauce, and creamy bechamel in the place of the more modern ricotta cheese. It’s really an amazing dish, and I’ll still be able to have it by replacing the meat with, say, mushrooms, but even then it won’t be a dish any doctor could recommend and still sleep well at night.
So when @DianeGilabert sent me this vegan lasagna recipe on Twitter, I knew it was one that I wanted to try. Diane runs the website www.lose-weight-for-life.com, focused on losing weight healthily through a natural, plant-based (vegan) diet, with lots of good recipes. You can find the recipe here. Even though my blog isn’t about losing weight per se, this lasagna still fits the NMA bill. Healthy, substantial, meat-free. And a great excuse to try making my first eggless pasta.
Diane’s recipe just calls for dried pasta. I could have done this, but fresh pasta is one of my favorite things to make. It makes you feel like a real cook, getting your hands dirty and doing what most people are afraid to try. The only problem is that most fresh pasta recipes use eggs. I’m still not sure about what my stance on eggs is, since it seems that eggs are included in the standard vegetarian diet, but I haven’t eaten them since I started. I figured this would be a good time to try eggless pasta, something I’ve been wanting to try for a while anyway. What you buy dried in stores is usually eggless, so it’s not going out on too much of a vegetarian limb to make pasta dough without eggs. It turns out that it’s really easy. Put four cups of whole wheat flour in a bowl, dig a well in the middle, pour in a little water, mix with the flour in the center and work outward, adding water a little at a time, up to about a cup and a quarter or until all the flour is incorporated. Then turn onto a dusted board and knead for ten minutes. Told you it was easy!
To roll the pasta into sheets, it’s easiest to use a KitchenAid attachment. You can do it with a rolling pin, but it’s hard to get it thin. As you can see from the picture, our dogs love when it’s pasta day! They’re used to pieces dropping off when we cut the pasta into fettucine or linguine, but no such luck for them today. You’d think we starved them or something.
Diane’s lasagna recipe uses spinach, eggplant, and tomato sauce. She recommends optionally adding mushrooms, something I’ll probably do next time, because I love mushrooms but didn’t see idea until too late. I’m not a vegan, so I didn’t mind adding a little cheese on top for flavor before putting this into the oven. Besides, we athletes need to get some fats to keep building muscle!
The lasagna turned out to have a lot more flavor than I expected from spinach and eggplant. We used Hunt’s tomato sauce, which contains nothing besides tomatoes (like sugar and god knows what else some brands use now), and we just seasoned it ourselves with Italian seasoning. The flavor was great, but I don’t think this type of sauce is as thick as what’s prescribed in the recipe. So the result was a thin sauce and a lack of structural integrity in the finished lasagna. What’s more, we rolled the pasta pretty thin and baked the lasagna for almost as long as is called for with dry noodles, so the noodles were too soft and didn’t do a good job of supporting everything. Moral of the story: Use a thick tomato sauce and dried lasagna noodles, or make them thick if you’re doing to do fresh. And use a little less sauce than is called for in the recipe.
Overall I’m going to give this lasagna 3 cows out of 5. I thought the flavor was great, but that this one just didn’t hold up well enough on the plate. And again, that’s really my fault for fooling around with fresh pasta and using a different sauce than the recipe calls for. If you make this one, stick with Diana’s recipe. But what fun is cooking if you don’t fool around a little bit?
Have a great weekend readers! Make some food, make sure it’s healthy, and make sure it’s REAL.