I live right down the street from an amazing family-owned Italian market, Glorioso’s. Honestly, I’m there at least four times per week. If I leave the house at all on my increasingly frequent “work from home” days, my destination is most likely Glorioso’s. They are fully stocked with an infinite selection of pastas, oils, vinegars, olives, Italian goodies, wines, and a decent produce section. Their sorbets are a lifesaver on humid summer days, and the deli section is abundant (that’s surrounded by the meaty and cheesy section, so I tend to stick to the produce side). Since I kill plants when I try to grow them on my windowsill, ample bundles of fresh basil leaves that don’t cost an arm and a leg make their way into my grocery basket every week. It’s so easy to waltz in for one or two items, then leave with two full grocery bags in tow and a lighter wallet. It’s not that Glorioso’s is expensive. It’s actually quite affordable if you shop with intention, but it’s so easy to buy everything in sight as you make your way around the store. Since I live so close, I’ve had to convince myself to start viewing the market as an extension of my pantry that I can easily get items from when I absolutely need to use them. I’ve managed to avoid buying the $11 bottle of chocolate balsamic sauce until I’ve convinced myself I absolutely need it for a recipe, that day. That strategy can apply to any store to prevent impulse buys, if you want to try it. It seems to work in this case because I wouldn’t mind making the trip every day. A quick stroll around the store will get you several warm greetings (this has made me feel better on a crappy day, on more than one occasion), and I think it has gotten to the point where the cashiers recognize me. Glorioso’s has saved the day during many a culinary crisis invoked by a missing ingredient. In addition to the bountiful stock of Italian goods, they have pretty much every plain old kitchen staple one would need. I tend to frequent the market to make delicious Italian food though.
I’ve always lived and breathed Italian food, making it my go-to cuisine when in doubt, and synonymous with “normal” comfort food for me. I grew up eating pasta by the boatload, plucking tomatoes and fresh herbs out of the backyard garden, and holding handfuls of basil up to my face to breathe in the aroma. Lasagna is one of my most coveted comforting dishes. Every Christmas, my grandma makes trays of lasagna to indulge in. While I haven’t been able to partake in the lasagna tradition for the past seven years, I’ve made a few dairy-free lasagnas over the years.
Making lasagna isn’t a decision to make lightly. There are many steps involved in making a truly substantial dish that it becomes a long, meditative process. Lately while sitting in my Monday morning art history class, my mind has been going back and forth between the topics of Italian Renaissance and food I’d like to cook. I came up with the elaborate plan of a Monday evening lasagna last week that I was going to make happen with no interruptions. I picked up all the ingredients at Glorioso’s and got to work on pesto, cashew almond parmesan, and cashew tofu ricotta. While all these parts were homemade, I cut myself a bit of slack and used jarred marinara and roasted red peppers. I had a nice crusty loaf of bread with olive oil and pesto and a bottle of red wine to tide me over between steps while working on dinner. It was such a fun, relaxing evening. Mmm, lasagna.
I kind of made up these recipes as I went along, referencing other vegan and non-vegan recipes as I went along, so amounts were written down a bit haphazardly. The parmesan makes quite a bit extra, but I like to use it as garnish for the lasagna and keep it around for other recipes.
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup raw almonds
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons walnuts or pine nuts
2 cups tightly packed basil
¼ cup Parmesan (recipe above)
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 block tofu
1/3 cup cashews
½ cup Parmesan (recipe above)
¼ cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped onion or shallot
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
16 ounces lasagna noodles
One medium onion
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup roasted red peppers
1/3 cup pesto
3 cloves garlic
2 jars (about 26 ounces total) marinara, mixed with:
1-2 tablespoons Italian spice blend, or your own mixture of oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, fennel seeds, etc.
Daiya mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Start by pressing the tofu for the ricotta. Set aside and begin working on the other components of the lasagna.
Parmesan: Combine the cashews, almonds, nutritional yeast, and salt in a food processor. Grind until the mixture reaches a sandy texture, just like parmesan.
If you store your nuts in the freezer, let them warm up before making the parmesan. The oils in the nuts will remain solid and the nutritional yeast won’t adhere to the nuts if they’re too cold.
Pesto: Combine the garlic and nuts in the food processor and blend until finely chopped. Wash the basil and add it in, along with the parmesan. While graduatlly drizzling in the olive oil, blend the pesto just until it is no longer gritty. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Ricotta: Combine all ingredients but the tofu in the food processor and blend until finely chopped. Add the tofu and pulse until the tofu is finely crumbled and the ingredients are homogenized throughout the tofu. Alternatively, you may want to crumble the tofu by hand. The food processor can quickly turn your ricotta into paste.
Lasagna: Boil lasagna* to just before al dente, according to package instructions, about 4-5 minutes.
*In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t boil my noodles beforehand with this lasagna. Doing this ended up sucking up way too much moisture. But if you don’t want to boil your noodles, add a bit of water to your marinara and use way more than you think you’ll need because the noodles will absorb it!
Slice the onion into large pieces and sauté in olive oil with the garlic over medium-high heat until fragrant and browned, about 7-8 minutes. Set aside.
Combine the artichokes with the roasted red peppers, then stir together with pesto. Mince the garlic and stir in. Feel free to vary the vegetables used here.
To assemble: Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan, cover with a thin layer of marinara, line with noodles.
Top layer with marinara, then dollop on tofu ricotta and scatter the sautéed onions and garlic. Top with more marinara and another layer of noodles.
Top this layer with artichoke and roasted pepper mix, tofu ricotta, and a little marinara. Add another layer of noodles.
Finally, top this layer with marinara (liberally, as the top layer tends to dry out) and pesto. Sprinkle on parmesan, about half a bag of mozzarella, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Cover in foil and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling, the cheese is melty. Check to make sure the noodles aren’t over cooked, every so often. Enjoy!
I may or may not have eaten leftovers for every meal for two days.