Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Winter Vegan Lasagna

Lasagna has an illustrious history in my life. My first-generation, Italian great-grandmother made pans of lasgana for my mother while she was pregnant with me; it was my favorite food as a child; and it was the first dish I ever made entirely on my own. A few months after I became vegan, I had an undeniable craving for lasagna. After doing some internet research, I found a recipe for vegan lasagna made with tofu ricotta. Commenters raved about the recipe, offered helpful revisions, and claimed that their omnivore friends ate every bite. I made my favorite tomato sauce, went to the health food store to get nutritional yeast, and put the whole thing together. It came out of the oven hot and bubbly. After cutting a big piece for myself, I took a bite and...was completely disappointed. I tried it again the next day, and swiftly slid the rest of the pan down the disposal. Ever since then, I have been plotting a seriously good vegan lasagna.

Sometimes, making things better doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel, but rather going back to the traditional. Living in Italy gave me the chance to experience the very best Italian food. The most surprising thing to me was how different traditional lasagna is from the dish you find in America. First of all, it doesn’t have the requisite top layer of browned and melted mozzarella. Secondly, it isn’t layered with ricotta and parmesan. Rather, it is comprised of layers of fresh pasta sheets, rich and creamy b├ęchamel, and tart tomato sauce. The addition of three kinds of cheese is a quintessentially American adaptation of foreign foods. Creating a vegan lasagna gave me an opportunity to make a healthier, and more traditional layered pasta. Fortunately, I already knew how to make a rocking vegan b├ęchamel, so a fabulous plant-based lasagna couldn’t be far away. After some experimentation, and a lot of planning, I’ve developed a flavorful, luscious, and hearty lasagna. Check back tomorrow for the full recipe!

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