What do you think of when you eat lasagna?
What I remember about lasagna are two frozen pans of lasagna that my mom left for my dad and my sisters and me when she went to Vietnam for two weeks. It must have been when I was in junior high, and my dad’s not really a cook. He grills, and he makes fried rice. So before my mom left, she prepared two lasagnas and put them in the freezer. My mom made a pretty simple lasagna–ground beef in jarred spaghetti sauce layered with ricotta and mozzarella in between lasagna noodles. Nothing fancy, but it always tasted good.
When we decided on lasagna, I thought of my mom’s pans of lasagna and I thought of the endless lasagna recipes I’ve seen across various food blogs. Since I’m living on my own this summer, I decided I wanted to do a single-serving type lasagna, like lasagna cups or lasagna roll-ups. And, since I’m trying to go back to dairy-light/dairy-free, I decided to do a dairy-free lasagna.
This lasagna also turned out to be a lesson in adaptability. I thought one box of noodles would be enough, and then I opened up the box of whole grain noodles and determined it would not be enough for a tray of lasagna cups. Then as I boiled them, I also discovered about half my noodles had split. So, I decided to go with lasagna, two ways. I made four lasagna roll-ups and a skillet lasagna. The filling was a mixture of ground turkey, hot Italian chicken sausage, and diced eggplant. I made a dairy-free ricotta using silken tofu and used shredded mozzarella-flavored Daiya, a mozzarella cheese substitute.
I was skeptical about the “ricotta” and the “mozzarella,” but I actually enjoyed both. I mean, the ricotta did taste a little like tofu, but I like tofu, and the consistency and texture was pretty close to real. The skillet lasagna came together a lot faster than the roll-ups, no surprise, but I liked both. The roll-ups look a little prettier, but the skillet version is perfect for a quick family meal at home.
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 hot Italian chicken sausage, crumbled
1 small eggplant, diced
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 box of whole grain lasagna noodles
dried Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1 cup Daiya mozzarella shreds
Dairy-free Ricotta Ingredients
1 package of silken/soft tofu
salt and pepper
Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. When hot, add the turkey and crumbled chicken sausage to brown. When brown, add the eggplant and a couple dashes of Italian seasoning. Cook until the eggplant is tender.
At the same time, set another pot on the stove and add the crushed tomatoes. Add a tablespoon or two of minced garlic, depending on your tastes, and a few dashes of dried basil, oregano, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of ground black pepper. Adjust according to taste. Stir and let simmer.
When the meat and eggplant are finished, add to the pot of tomato sauce. Cover and continue simmering the sauce.
While your tomato sauce simmers, set a pot of water to boil on the stove and boil lasagna noodles according to the package’s directions.
While you prepare the noodles, add the tofu to a small mixing bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of minced garlic, a dash of basil, oregano, salt, and ground black pepper. Mash it all together until it resembles the consistency of ricotta. Adjust spices according to taste.
To build the roll-ups, layer sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella over the noodle, then roll it up like a jelly roll, with the seam side down. Bake the lasagna rolls in a glass baking dish. Spoon sauce over the tops and then sprinkle more mozzarella on the top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, covered with foil. Remove the foil for the last few minutes of cooking to brown the cheese.
For Skillet Lasagna
Slice up the lasagna noodles into bite-size noodles. Add sauce, noodles, and dairy-free ricotta into a skillet. Toss together to coat the noodles and warm. At the last few minutes add mozzarella to melt into the lasagna.