Growing up, my mom didn’t make a real lasagna; we only had the hamburger helper or Costco heat-and-serve versions. In her defense, my mom made a mean spaghetti and the most awesome twice baked potatoes and chicken a la king with biscuits! She’s a fabulous cook. She just never took the time to make a lasagna.
When I was in high school, my sister Janet would take one of my sisters and I to a great spot in Little Italy, San Diego, called Mona Lisa. During my first trip to the restaurant someone recommended the lasagna, so ordered it. It was so good that for every trip to Mona Lisa thereafter, I ordered the lasagna. It was a thick, meaty, juicy, gooey, cheesy block of deliciousness. So good. Soooo soooo good until I watched an episode on the Oprah Winfrey Show about irreversible fatty plaques in the heart. It was then I had a paradigm shift about cheese, butter and my heart. My life would never be the same again. This happened around 1996, when I was 16. From then on, I became a little more health conscious and would have lasagna maybe once a year, or even once every 2 years. Between 1996 and 2002, though, my healthy eating habits fluctuated and were out of whack due to my out of control thyroid condition (that was treated in 1998).
It wasn’t until I started dating Peyman and visiting his parents that I had lasagna more regularly (maybe once a month). My mother-in-law always packed delicious food for him on the weekends to enjoy during the week. One of her specialties is lasagna. Her’s t isn’t ‘t too meaty, or too saucy or cheesy. It even has spinach. I thought it was good but still not the healthiest as it contains wheat pasta (I’m gluten intolerant) and I consider anything with cheese unhealthy.
Since Peyman hadn’t had lasagna in quite a long time, a couple of weeks ago I decided to surprise Peyman with a special lasagna, high in nutrition. It would be my first attempt at making lasagna! Coincidentally, that same day I watched “Forks over Knives Presents the Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselstyn” and decided to try Rip’s lasagna recipe. If Rip thought his lasagna was good enough to serve at his wedding, I thought it was good enough for my man. I made it extra special by making my own high-protein quinoa pasta sheets. Finally when it came time for Peyman to try it, he wasn’t too thrilled. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he’s very picky. First of all, he doesn’t like quinoa, rosemary and sweet potatoes; he noticed 2 of the 3 in his first bite. Sadly, he didn’t finish his piece and I gave the leftovers to my sister, Riva, and her husband, Scott.
Funny thing, we saw Scott last weekend at their daughter’s birthday party. Scott told Peyman and I that he really liked the lasagna! Peyman couldn’t believe it!
Long story short, this inspired me to make a lasagna similar to Rip’s recipe but in a style I knew Peyman and I would definitely enjoy. In addition to my adaptation being vegan and gluten-free, it is soy-free and a bit spicy with vegan rajas. Good news, Peyman enjoyed this version very much! After taking a few bites he said with a nod, “this is much better!”. It warmed my heart.
Now, I’m going to share the recipe with you. Hope it satisfies you just the same!
Time: 2 hours
Brief: This is my adaptation of Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Lasagna. My version is both vegan and gluten-free, as well as soy-free. My version is also a little spicy with vegan “rajas”.
Diet: V, GF, GFV, DF, SF, SRF
You’ll need an 8×8″, 9X9″, or 8X10″ baking dish.
1 Tbsp flax meal plus 3 Tbsp filtered water
3/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup oat flour
2 Tbsp filtered water
1 tsp sea salt
2 drops of stevia, optional
1 box of lasagna noodles, gluten-free
1 sweet potato, optional
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 head of garlic, mashed or minced
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 large carrot or 2 small Carrots, sliced at a diagonal.
1/2 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 poblano or pasilla chile, deseeded and chopped
1/2 cup frozen non-gmo sweet corn
8 oz. frozen chopped spinach
2 medium zucchini, cut in half, then slice lengthwise to get long, flat pieces
1 large eggplant, sliced thin rounds about 1 cm. thick
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
>1 tsp dried rosemary
1 jar of pasta sauce. I( really like using Trader Joe’s Arrabiata sauce)
1/2 tsp sea salt
crushed red pepper flakes, as needed
3 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup raw cashews, crushed or ½ cup cashew cream
1. In a small bowl, prepare the flax egg by mixing together 1 Tbsp flax meal with 3 Tbsp of filtered water. Set aside for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, prepare other ingredients. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flours and salt. Make a well in the flour, add the flax egg, and mix. Mixture should form a stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 Tbsp or more of filtered water.
2. Tear 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap (about 9X10″). Place one sheet on worktable, lightly dust it with flour. Take half of the dough, form it into a ball, dust the top of the ball with a little more flour. Place the top sheet on top of the ball and roll out the dough about a centimeter or so thick, in the shape of your dish. When assembling the lasagna and when it’s time to add a sheet of pasta, flip the sheets with the pasta so that the bottom sheet now becomes the top sheet. Remove the top sheet from the rolled out pasta slowly so it doesn’t tear. While holding the pasta sheet on the parchment, transfer to the baking dish when it’s time to add the pasta sheet. If it doesn’t fit perfectly, cut the pasta accordingly and fill out the rest of the layer with scraps if there are empty spots, to make one complete layer of pasta.
3. Repeat step 2 when time comes to add another pasta sheet layer.
1. Cover sweet potato in a paper towel. Wet it, place it on a plate, add a little water on the plate and microwave for 5 – 7 minutes until the sweet potato is cooked. Alternatively, bake sweet potato in the oven until cooked. (375 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes). Set aside.
2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add onions. Cook for a minute then add the garlic and mushrooms. No oil is necessary. Cook for another minute and add bell peppers, poblano chile, corn, carrots, sea salt, oregano, basil, rosemary and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring until the onions become translucent. Once translucent, add spinach. Cook for one more minute. Place the mixture into a bowl. Set aside.
3. In same pan, brown the slices of zucchini until they become a little caramelized on both sides, not burned. Place caramelized slices on a small plate and set aside.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In an 8×8″, 9X9″, or 8X10″ baking dish, add a thin layer of pasta sauce.
3. Add a pasta sheet layer then cover with a layer of sauce.
4. Add a layer of the cooked veggie mixture (onion, garlic, mushroom, etc.)
5. Add a layer of eggplant. Overlap the eggplant with thin slices so you don’t see any veggie mixture.
6. Add a layer of sweet potato, either sliced or mashed.
7. Add another pasta sheet layer.
8. Add a thin layer of pasta sauce.
9. Add another layer of cooked veggie mixture.
10. Add another layer of eggplant, overlapping eggplant with thinner slices so you don’t see any veggie mixture.
11. Add a layer of zucchini.
12. Add last layer of pasta sauce
13. Add a layer of tomatoes
14. Sprinkle with crushed cashews or smother with some cashew cream sauce and a bit more marinara.
15. Cover with foil. Place on lined baking sheet, in case it bubbles over.
16. Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hr and 15 minutes to 1.5 hours, until pasta is cooked.
17. Remove from oven. Remove foil and let it sit out for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.
18. Slice and serve!
Yes, it is a lengthy recipe, but if you do attempt to make this, please let me know how yours turns out! I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!
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