Growing up lasagna was never one of my favorite dishes. I never was one to like meat, so that fact that ground beef was a main ingredient pretty much turned me off of the whole lasagna thing. That was until 2 years ago when I went to Italy and having a chance to taste a special vegetarian lasagna recipe.
During our Visit in Florence we stayed with two of my dad’s good friends. One of his friends Roberta, was an excellent cook, it was like living in a restaurant. Delicious homemade meals with enough food to feed an army were always awaiting us at a formally set dining room table each night. One night Roberta set a baking pan filled with something that resembled a casserole down on the table in front of us. I wasn’t quite sure what the dish was, but it sure did look good. It seemed to be something which was smothered in cheese. Nosily my family and I all peeked into the pan wondering what this dish was. “Lasagna”, Roberta said simply. I was shocked. To me lasagna was always prepared with ground beef and made with a red tomato sauce, but apparently this was a traditional Neapolitan dish popular in the south of Italy. The rest of Italy, especially in the north enjoyed to prepare vegetarian lasagna recipe with a creamy white, béchamel sauce. This lasagna wasn’t made with ground beef either, instead it was made with artichoke hearts and a pesto sauce. One bite of this heavenly dish and I was hooked.
My parents, also being big foodies and excellent cooks themselves demanded Roberta show them how to create this amazing dish. A few days later Roberta show us her special vegetarian lasagna recipe again for us (we had managed to chow down the entire lasagna within one meal) and this time my mom feverishly wrote down directions as Roberta simply eye balled the measurements and added in all the necessary ingredients.
Roberta’s Vegetarian Lasagna Recipe
Once we got home to the states my parents experimented with the recipe, they substituted ingredients, and added other veggies, like sautéed spinach and asparagus and really perfected the recipe. Suddenly this creamy and cheesy lasagna became one of my new favorite foods. That was until I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy. For a while I would even simply accept the terrible ramifications in exchange for just a bite of lasagna, but soon it just became too much, once I completely gave up dairy I had to say goodbye to my favorite dish. As a vegan this is probably one of the dishes I have missed the most, Even now when I see my parents enjoying this heavenly dish it takes all my self control to simply resist the urge to reach out my fork for just one bite full.
Browsing through the internet the other day I came across a vegan restaurant which had a vegan béchamel sauce on the menu. Feeling hopeful I once again turned to the trusty Google for a recipe and was pleasantly surprised to finds tons of hits. Looking through recipe after recipe I began to get an idea for my own creation of a vegan vegetable lasagna recipe with a white creamy béchamel sauce.
First start by preparing sauce
Ingredients for Vegan Béchamel Sauce
2 cups soy milk
1 1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup of cashew nuts (ground finley, should have a poweder like texture)
1 tsp of nutritional yeast
a sprinkle of salt and pepper
1 tsp of nutmeg
1/4 cup of sesame oil (any oil will do)
1/2 cup of unbleached flour
Using a blender blend together soy milk, water, cashew powder, nutritional yeast and seasonings until smooth.
Pour into a pot and let sauce simmer over low heat. Over medium heat pour oil into a saucepan and add flour and mix together to make a roux . Add roux to sauce using a whisk, make sure the flour has been thoroughly mixed and is completely dissolved.
Allow sauce to simmer over low heat for another 10 -15 minutes stirring every few minutes. Please note that initially sauce may seem thin but after several minutes you should notice that sauce has substantially thickened and is now a nice creamy sauce. If however, your sauce is still very thin after 10 minutes, feel free to add in more flour.
Now begin preparing vegetables
3 Large sized zucchini (ends removed sliced about ½ inch thick)
15 oz bag of spinach
14 oz can of artichokes drained and chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 ½ cup of onion chopped finely
2 tsp of olive oil
1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese (I used Lisanatti Foods Almond Mozzarella Style)
Oregano (use as desired to season)
Salt and pepper (used to season)
While sauce is simmering begin preparing vegetables. Preheat oven to 450. Slice zucchini by first cutting zucchini in half length wise.
Then once more in half (I Have found this is easiest for handling)
Then carefully cut zucchini very thin about ½ an inch thick (Too thin and the zucchini will be to fragile once baked).
Lay out on a baking sheet sprinkle with tsp of olive oil salt and pepper and oregano, let bake until zucchini is soft about 10 minutes. Once done baking let cool and set aside.
Meanwhile boil water for spinach and let steam. Once steamed drain spinach and run cold water over the spinach to stop from cooking, pat dry and set aside.
Begin to chop garlic and onion, add 2 tsp of olive oil to a sauté pan over medium heat, add garlic and onion and let sauté until onion becomes translucent. Remember to lower heat if garlic or onions begin to brown.
Add steamed spinach and artichoke hearts to sauté pan and mix together for 45 -60 seconds to soak up flavor (add more olive oil if necessary or if ingredients are too dry) once well mixed transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Lower oven to 425. Once zucchini is cool enough to handle, spray an 9 x 9 size pan with non stick cooking spray(or grease with olive oil) Gently lay down zucchini to completely cover the bottom of the pan.
Pour about ¼ of the béchamel sauce over the zucchini
Followed by about ¼ of the mixed vegetables
Then pour ¼ of the béchamel sauce over the vegetable mixture
Layer Zucchini on top
Continue layering ingredients this way using the same measurements until all ingredients have been used, you should get about 3 layers. Sprinkle Mozzarella cheese on top (I used almond cheese)
Bake for about 25- 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and begins to brown. Let cool for 10 – 15 minutes and enjoy!
Source from: Kait Inside Dish