My darling mum was never much interested in cooking–indeed, she had a regular rotation of meals each week: roast beef or ham on Sunday, spaghetti on Monday, fast-fry pork chops (with Noodles Romanoff!!) on Tuesday, beef stew on Wednesday, and, well, you get the idea. Tuesday was my favourite meal, not because of that tough little medallion of pork, but because of that little scoop of Noodles Romanoff, which I LURVED!!! I still can’t figure out how my dear old mum got six servings out of a 5.75-ounce package, but she did!
But when my parents entertained guests, she’d always serve lasagne accompanied by a salad (iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, and green onions) with Kraft Thousand Island dressing, and Black Forest cake (Betty Crocker!) for dessert. And the morning after a dinner party, Bid and I would always tear downstairs to fight over the remains (my brothers were never as enamoured of the lasagne dinners as we were). By the 1980s, my mum expanded her repertoire to include something called “Chicken Elizabeth,” a Best of Bridge recipe that involved placing skinned chicken thighs in a casserole dish and covering them with…..you guessed it: Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. Full disclosure: the recipe called for chicken breasts, but my mum used thighs because they were “more succulent” (they were cheaper!).
There is really no doubt where my hillbilly tastebuds originated.
But my mum’s lasagne was actually delicious.
So we’re having a crowd of Pooley relatives in for the Easter weekend next in honour of Stefan’s thirtieth birthday, and we’ve already started the food planning. We decided to simplify things for the Friday evening birthday dinner by simply making a couple of huge lasagnes–a vegetarian one (prepared by James) and a vegan one (prepared by me!). Now I’ve made a few stabs at vegan lasagne in the past and they were always fine, but I really wanted to recreate a vegan version of my mum’s lasagne for the kids…well, the vegan kids anyway.
My mum’s lasagne involved a super thick, meaty sauce, your basic Kraft mozzarella slices, cottage cheese mixed with an egg and a cup of Kraft parmesan (the stuff in the green and red sprinkle can), and no-bake lasagne noodles.
So for my vegan version, I started with this vegan Ragù Bolognese recipe because I wanted a thick sauce with a sense of meatiness. The result was good, but needed the standard additions of oregano and basil (to taste like my mum’s), so I added those spices. I also left out the refined coconut oil and added a slurry of Better Than Bouillon vegetable base, miso paste, soy sauce, and nooch to increase the umami.
For the cheese, I used one of my own recipes for vegan mozzarella, of which I have many! I used this one, but added a cup of melted refined coconut oil and a teaspoon of xanthan gum. It’s richer than my regular pizza mozzarella (though a bit too soft for grating). And my darling niece, Dana (one of the vegans who will be attending the birthday feast!), isn’t a fan of my no-extracted-oil mozzarella.
So here we go!
Kate’s Lasagne, Vegan Style!
First, make the vegan mozzarella.
Blend in the Vitamix until smooth:
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 cup melted refined coconut oil
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 TBS kappa carrageenan
- 1 tsp Better Thank Bouillon or Knorr Vegetable Broth powder
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
Blend ingredients on high in the Vitamix for thirty seconds. Pour the mixture into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes smooth and shiny. The tapioca flour will be cooked ONLY when the mixture is shiny. Pour it into a (very lightly oiled) mold and refrigerate for several hours. Once the cheese firms up, you will be able to slice it for the lasagne.
Next, make the sauce:
Vegan Ragu Bolognese Sauce
350 g medium yellow onion, finely minced
225g carrots, finely chopped
170g fennel, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
6 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water, drained and finely chopped
1 pound this seitan roast, shaved into small bits
1 5-ounce can of tomato paste
1 1/2 cups (355ml) dry red wine
1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, puréed with a blender
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp sage
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup miso
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 nutritional yeast
2 TBS Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
1/4 cup water
1.In a large saucepan, spray a pan lightly with oil and add the onion, carrot, fennel, and garlic and cook, stirring and scraping frequently, until aromatics are beginning to turn golden, about 8 minutes.
2. Add mushrooms and seitan and cook, stirring and scraping frequently, until much of the water in the mushrooms and seitan cooks off and a brown film develops on the bottom of the pot.
3. Stir in tomato paste and cook for a minute. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer wine until it has almost fully reduced and the raw alcohol smell has cooked off, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in puréed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add spices.
5. Make a slurry in the Magic Bullet with the miso, soy sauce, Better Than Bouillon vegetable base, nutritional yeast, and water. Stir into the sauce sauce and cook at a very gentle simmer until sauce has reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes.
Next, make the ricotta layer:
Make a batch of this ricotta from Onegreenplanet.com. I’d recommend upping the cashews to 1/3 cup and adding a tsp or two of lemon zest (on the recommendation of another of my darling nieces, Annie!).
Add one cup of this parmesan from Cookieandcake.com
Mix together 2 tsp of Vegg egg replacer with 1/2 cup of water and blend well into the mixture above (you’ll likely have to use your hands).
Okay, so now we’re ready for the assembly!
First, line a 9 x 14-inch casserole dish with a little bit of sauce. Next line the pan with oven-ready brown rice lasagne noodles, cover the noodles with half the ricotta mixture, cover the ricotta mixture with the sliced mozzarella, cover with half the ragu bolognese sauce.
Repeat the layers and put a little more mozza on top.
Bake at 375 for an hour or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If you place some mozza on top, cover with foil for the first 45 minutes and then remove.
Here’s the little one I made for our dinner tonight. It actually looks like my mum’s lasagne, which was neither vegan NOR vegetarian. It also tastes amazing….I honestly don’t think anyone would guess it’s vegan! You can see the deliciously creamy mozza peeking through the sauce! My one criticism is that it’s a bit too rich. In future, I think I’ll use my mozza recipe with no extracted oil.
And here’s the one I’m freezing for next week. I had a little extra mozza that I put on top….
And here’s a pic of our dinner: grilled Caesar salad, Kate’s vegan lasagne, and a freshly baked baguette!
Now, this entire endeavour was a bit labour-intensive, but I’d do it again in a minute for a special occasion! I am dying to get the verdict from the kids next week….and from Bid, who remembers my mum’s lasagne with as much fondness as I do!
And the song of the day is Lake Street Dive’s “Seventeen.” When I was cooking today, I asked Google to play me something I would like, and she played me a surprisingly good mix, which included this song–I haven’t heard it in ages. Only one song in the mix was off-putting and I told Google I didn’t like the song. “Noted,” she said and skipped to the next tune!