Vegan since 1975, I decide to answer the question, "What DO you eat?" These posts tell about some meals and recipes my family and I have enjoyed over the years.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Zucchini Lasagna

I wanted to make a lasagna last night, but didn't have any wide lasagna noodles—but I had a lot of zucchini to use up. Hmmm. I'd made a large pot of tomato sauce, and I decided to layer up what I had on hand. I had seven people to feed, so I wanted a large amount of whatever I came up with.

The layers
large amount of tomato sauce
medium large zucchini, cut into long wide slices ¼ inch thick
bunch of chopped dark leafy greens
bag of whatever pasta you have (I used whole wheat spirals)
suitable quantity of some kind of protein, such as tofu, gluten (seitan) roast, tempeh or beans

Topping
nutritional yeast and olive oil, or whatever cheese-like substance you prefer

As you can see, I've left the amounts somewhat ambiguous, since it really depends on the size of the pot you are going to fill. Lasagna is a word that may have come from the name of the pot it was cooked in, though there is some debate on that. My lasagna pot, I may have mentioned, is an enormous stainless steel, long, oval, lidded pan, considered to be a steamer for an unfortunate fish. I find it much more pleasant to use to cook my larger casseroles, and, lately, my granola. I have two of them, which I've bought for a dollar or two at yard sales, and I find them very useful. I haven't yet thought of a use for the steamer insert, so let me know if you come up with something.

Cut off the ends of a medium large zucchini, which you will have if you've neglected to search thoroughly under the squash leaves. Slice it lengthwise, about a quarter inch thick. You could use two smaller zucchinis. Chop up a bunch of dark green leafy greens. Crumble or chop up some roast gluten. I've been adding soy pulp to mine, lately (left from the soy milk making process), which gives it a crumblier texture. It's also good for topping pizzas. Have a couple of cups of any kind of pasta on hand. I thought I'd use up the whole wheat spirals I had, as no-one would notice and complain that they weren't slippery enough.

In your deep pan, start off with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Top it with the long slices of zucchini, laying them next to each other, not overlapping. Distribute the chopped greens over the zucchini. Sprinkle on some dry pasta, leaving space between them. Crumble on whichever protein you have on hand. I used leftover roast gluten (seitan). (See my recipe for that in the recipe archive here on the site). Cover with a layer of tomato sauce. Repeat up to the top, ending with a layer of tomato sauce.

I baked mine with the lid on for an hour and a half, as it was a huge amount of food to heat through. A normal casserole would probably take forty-five minutes to an hour at 350 degrees. At the end, I sprinkled nutritional yeast on the top, sprinkled it with olive oil, and baked it without the lid for another fifteen minutes. You could easily use some kind of vegan cheese, if you would prefer.

If you'll notice, other than the tomato sauce and the protein, none of the other ingredients is precooked. There will need to be enough sauce to get the pasta damp enough to get soft, of course. The zucchini, which I had sliced thickly, maintained its texture, and didn't get too mushy. The greens were all soft. I am so glad I know now that the ingredients don't all have to be cooked before you bake them. That was always a time consuming process that made making lasagna a pain—the cooked noodles would always stick together, for one thing. And too many pots had to be used! There are only two pots in this recipe, and if you used jarred tomato sauce, then only one pot to wash.

I went around and asked the six various menfolk, ranging in age from fourteen to fifties, what they thought of the meal, and most of them had happily devoured it and cleaned their plates. There was one hold-out, who picked apart his food—I'm not sure what he was avoiding—and complained about casseroles in general, but his older brother scooped his leftovers into a container for tomorrow's lunch. So, you can't please everybody, but you can please a variety of people with this dish. And use up another zucchini.

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