Being what feels like a million miles away from my family I Sometimes get the homesick blues. Since I don’t have the luxury of hopping on a plane and going home at the drop of a hat I have found some other coping mechanisms. One of my favorites is eating my family’s comfort foods. Every family has them. Great Grandma’s cabbage and bow ties, or Grandma Dean’s pork chops and peas with a side of mashed potatoes, pirogues and kielbasa.. and I could go on for days. These are the dishes that brought us together on holidays, snow days, and the other three hundred and something days a year I was gathered around the dining room table with the people I love most. However people’s lifestyles change and sometimes what they once ate they no longer do. I’ve decided to take one of my favorite dishes my mother makes, the one I have missed the most recently..My Mom’s lasagna and tweak it into a meat free, gluten free, new and improved but “Not so Mom’s lasagna”. This lasagna features a roasted red tomato sauce I have borrowed and tweaked from Willy B Mum, and instead of lasagna noodles I will use thinly sliced zucchini and eggplant. All organic vegetables from my local farmers market! Highlights of this meal are that it is gluten free, vegetarian friendly and absolutely scrumptious! Head to the kitchen and grab your apron!
Tools you will need
2 large pizza or cookie sheets, aluminum foil, cheese grater, large glass Pyrex dish, spatulas, food processor (good blender or nutri bullet will work I am sure) large sauté pan, peeler, good chopping knife, cutting board, strainer, paper towels, large plate
8 good size tomatoes, 2 large sweet onions, 1-2 bulbs of garlic, 6 decent size zucchini, 1 big bad mama jama sized eggplant, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, plenty of grated Parmesan, 2 cups mozzarella, 1/2 brick of Philadelphia cream cheese (ricotta or cottage cheese. I was already in the process of cooking and was not going out to the store so I got creative.)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
Take your pizza sheets and line them with aluminum foil to catch the drippings the tomatoes will make, drizzle olive oil on the sheet. It’s now time for the cutting board and your good chopping knife, peel and slice your onions into 1/8 inch slices around (so the rings replicate an onion ring) and place them on the sheets. Peel and leave your garlic toes whole, place them on the sheet with the onion slices. Time to grab your tomatoes and strainer, rinse your tomatoes thoroughly. Cut them into halves and place them on top of your onion slices. Sprinkle sea salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil (fresh if you have it) garlic powder, and drizzle more EVVO on top! Now cover well with aluminum foil and stick it in the oven for 30 minutes.
While your tomatoes, onions and garlic are cooking now is the opportune time to prepare your “noodles”. Once again grab your strainer and rinse your 6 zucchini and 1 big bad mama jama eggplant thoroughly. Once this is done we are going to cut off the very ends of your zucchini and eggplant and peel them with a vegetable peeler (unless of course you are skilled with a knife, then by all means have at it!). When they are all peeled you will slice them thinly but not to thin, the long way (noodle like) these are going to go in the oven and bake to make them a little softer. When you are done slicing your veggies pat them dry or let them rest in between layers of paper towels on a plate. Sometime soon your timer should be going off, you will now uncover the tomatoes and put them back in for another 25 minutes. Right about now I set out my cream cheese to soften a little. I have prepared my my food processor and pan. Time to grate some cheese. I now have grated about 2 cups of mozzarella and made sure my zucchini and eggplant are completely dry.
Now it’s time to take the oven roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic out and let it cool for a minute. Keep the oven on and lower it to 350. Once they are cooled I grab a spatula and scoop up my tomatoes, onions and garlic into the food processor. Don’t forget all those delicious drippings! Pull up the edges of your aluminum foil and fold it in half let those drippings flow into the food processor and give it a whirl! Let it blend nice and smooth. This is when I like to add any other seasonings I feel it may need such as crushed red pepper flakes for a little heat and a good amount of Parmesan cheese. Sometimes I have to do this in 2 batches, depending on how big your food processor is you may have to as well. Fire up your sauté pan and pour this oven roasted deliciousness in. Now it’s getting hot and steamy up in here!!! Set the burner on simmer, keep it uncovered.
Now it’s time to put your noodles in the oven. Recycle the aluminum foil you used to cover the tomatoes and line the bottom of your pizza sheets lay down your “noodles” and sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Bake for about 15 minutes until fork tender, not mushy though. When done, pull them out to cool down. Now this is where the magic happens! Grab your Pyrex dish and layer your roasted tomato sauce, noodles, and some mozzarella. Smack dab in the middle of these layers I added a very thin slice of cream cheese, being cream cheese is very rich and I did not have any ricotta on hand. Continue layers and top with a generous amount of sauce and sprinkle with a nice layer of mozzarella on top. Now pop this baby in the oven for about 30 minutes so we can let it all meld into a delicious dish of fresh, rich and roasted ingredients! When it’s done set out for about 10 minutes to cool. Cut out a slice for you and a loved one.
If this doesn’t feel like a warm and loving hug from way back home then I don’t know what does!
And That’s how you make “Not so Mom’s” lasagna! Meat free, gluten free but all the flavor you need!
Woman helping women.