Anyway, back to the challenge. The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge. I am a Splendid Table listener. I used to try and catch The Splendid Table at it's scheduled time on NPR but I am usually working so it was a fairly rare occation. Then I discovered podcasts and haven't looked back since. Of course now I'm addicted to podcasts but there are worse things to become addicted to (isn't it funny we use this line everytime we find ourselves spending too much time with something, "There are worse things to be addicted to.")
Moving right along. The first thing you need for a good lasagne is the noodles. This brings us to the part of this challenge that was the challenge. I have never made pasta from scratch before and the Lynne's recipe calls for eggs so taking the suggestion of other alternative Daring Bakers I tried out Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipe. This was a good move. Pasta came out fantabulous and I highly recommend it for any of your pasta needs. Even me, who usually screws up these things on the first try, got it to turn out well easily the first time.
After the pasta I just needed to decide on sauce and cheeziness. I kept it simple. I find the simplier the better for the taste and for my time management. I wanted to stay within the components of the original recipe which included something I have never used in a lasagne before, Bechamel Sauce. I've never heard of this. Has anyone else? Is this a wonderful secret that has been kept from me all these years? It's pure genious! So smooth and creamy. I happened to have Veganrella in my fridge from a friend but in the future I don't think I'll be using any cheese sub at all. The bechamel is perfect for that creamy factor.
4 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan margarine
4 tablespoons all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups nondairy milk of choice (I used almond)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the margarine over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.I kept the marinara sauce simple. I'm not even sure you'd call this a recipe. Just heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add a little oil or water just to prevent sticking. Add a chopped onion and 4 minced cloves of garlic. Cook 5ish minutes. Add a large can of diced tomatoes. Add some oregano, basil, a little salt if you like. That's pretty much it. To add some extra protein to the mix I rehydrated some soy/tvp chunks I happened to have around but you could use cooked lentils, tvp mince, veggie crumbles, crumbled tempeh, whatevs.
To assemble this beautiful masterpiece (ok it doesn't look that beautiful but I never claimed to be a photographer). I boiled a layer of pasta at a time and applied the fillings as the next layer was cooking. So first add a little bechamel sauce to the bottom of your pan (I used a 9x13"), then noodles, then a little more bechamel, then tomato sauce, grate vegan cheeze if using, fleck a bit more bechamel on there, another layer of noodles, bechamel, tomato sauce, cheeze & bechamel. Continue this wonderful cycle as long as you can finishing with cheese and bechamel on top. Bake about 30 mins covered with foil and uncover and bake a bit more to brown up the top a bit.
I'm pretty damn excited to have successfully made my own vegan noodles and I will definitely be doing this again because it was so easy and it feels great to have a much better understanding of what exactly is going into your food.