Few cuisines strike a perfect balance between fine dining and comfort food like Italian fare, especially in the case of lasagna. The combination of pasta, cheese, beef and sauce merge into an unforgettable gastronomic experience that seems both elegant and effortless
Unfortunately, Italian cooking poses a problem to many people with food intolerances. The prevalence of dairy, meat and carbohydrates put the best Italian dishes off-limits for those with allergies or who want to eat healthily.
Fortunately, many home and professional chefs have developed ways to make delicious gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan versions of lasagna.
If you cannot stomach lasagna made with wheat-based noodles, there are alternatives you can employ in your dish. Erin Dooner, writing for the website Gluten Free on a Shoestring, recommends using 12 – 16 gluten-free, no-boil lasagna sheets, which can be stacked in the casserole dish the same way regular noodles are.
Many stores also carry uncooked, dry noodle sheets made with corn or rice blends.
If you’d prefer vegetarian lasagna over imitation noodles, Minimalist Baker has a stellar recipe for an eight-ingredient lasagna. Replace the noodles with sliced zucchini, layered the same way noodles would be, with filling spread in between. Bake the lasagna until the zucchini is soft to slice through.
You can also use pre-cooked sweet potatoes or eggplant in place of noodles.
Another ingredient that poses a problem to some diners is the cheese. Most people use ricotta, parmesan and even cottage cheese in their lasagna to give it creaminess, but if you avoid eating dairy, Minimalist Baker’s zucchini lasagna recipe also gives directions for a substitute for ricotta cheese.
Use three cups of raw macadamia nuts, soaked blanched almonds or a block of extra-firm tofu instead. Blend into a fine meal and add nutritional yeast, herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and water until the mixture is a tasty paste.
If you like using cheese or eggs to thicken your lasagna, put an eight-ounce package of vegan cream cheese into your mixture.
If you would prefer to avoid stuffing your lasagna full of ground beef, sausage or bacon, you do not have to miss out on the hearty flavor that comes with meat. The most prominent meat substitute, as recommended by Vegetarian Times, is tofu, which can be sautéed and seasoned or pureed with ingredients and spread.
You can also find a recipe on Yummly that substitutes meat with cannellini beans.
Once you determine which healthy ingredients to use, chop up some onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach too.
If you fear that your dish will not be tasty without cheese or meat, be sure to give extra consideration to the seasonings you use, as they can give your lasagna the extra boost of flavor it needs. In addition to minced garlic, mix in fresh basil, red pepper flakes, ground pepper, oregano and/or nutmeg.
Gluten Free on a Shoestring recommends warming the sauce beforehand by cooking it in a pot with the seasonings, letting it simmer hot for 15 – 20 minutes. You can even blend it with some red wine for added zest.
No matter your dietary restrictions, there are many ways you can still make lasagna your family’s favorite meal.
This article is presented by Parks Lincoln of Tampa in Tampa, Florida.