Sunday mornings were always my favorite as a child. I would wake up to the mesmerizing aromas of fresh tomato sauce slow cooking on the stove. I’d let the mouth-watering scents escort me downstairs to the kitchen. In the summers, my mother would ask me to go get fresh basil and parsley from the garden to add to the sauce. I’d also bring in a fresh head of lettuce for the delicious salad we Italians like to eat after the pasta. Sunday lunches were always a scrumptious pasta dish, as is typical, even today, for Italian families.
It was my biggest delight to watch my mother or grandmother cook. I would assist in the preparation of the meals, as a small girl, too short to stand at the counter or sink without a little bench helping me up. I’d watch attentively and diligently assist, even in washing the dishes. I believe that’s where my love of the kitchen and cooking began. Later in life, I found myself just knowing how to make certain dishes that I had never made on my own before, but I somehow remembered all the ingredients and procedures.
This week, I share with you a lovely little idea for adding a twist to conventional lasagna: lasagna rolls. I got the idea in Ann Gentry’s inspiring and informative cookbook, Vegan Family Meals. These lasagna rolls are so tasty and so pretty, no one will miss the meat one bit! The mushrooms and spinach that I chose to form part of the stuffing, along with Gentry’s fantastic recipe for tofu ricotta, are seasoned with steak spice and fennel, creating that meat-like taste sensation, as we did with the Vegan Shepherd’s Pie .
Alternatively, you can use this tasty and versatile stuffing for cannelloni or pasta shells of any kind. I am also sharing with you a very easy way to make your own tomato sauce. It’s so simple and tasty, why buy one from a jar that has refined sugar, table salt, canola oil and a bunch of other junk? Go on: try it! Enjoy, in joy and in health!
Whole-Wheat Lasagna Rolls
1 package eggless, whole-wheat or rice lasagna noodles (about 12 noodles)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups mushrooms (your favorite or a combination of different mushrooms), chopped
5 cups baby spinach, chopped, stem removed
3 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons unsalted Montreal steak spice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 teaspoons sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until tender. Add garlic and sauté for 5 more minutes.
- Add mushrooms, one teaspoon sea salt, steak spice, fennel and oregano and sauté until mushrooms are tender and most of the water has evaporated, about 10-15 minutes. Add spinach leaves and one teaspoon sea salt. Continue to sauté until spinach has completely wilted, about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow vegetables to cool.
- Mix in tofu ricotta mixture (recipe follows).
- In a large pot, add water and one teaspoon sea salt and bring water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles as per instructions on the box. Drain and set aside.
- Spread one cup tomato sauce (recipe follows) in large glass or ceramic baking dish.
- Take one lasagna noodle at a time and lay it flat on a wooden cutting board. Scoop in about ½ cup ricotta and vegetable mixture on each lasagna noodle, leaving about ½ inch at each end uncovered.
- Roll up each noodle tightly and place it seam-side-down in sauce covered baking dish.
- Once all lasagna rolls are placed in the baking dish, pour remaining sauce over them.
- Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake 40-45 minutes.
- Remove from oven and garnish with chopped fresh basil and hemp seeds.
(recipe adapted from Ann Gentry, Vegan Family Meals. Makes about 2-3 cups)
1 package organic firm tofu, drained and cut into quarters or crumbled
2/3 cup yellow miso
2/3 cup water
½ cup tahini
¼ cup olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoon dried basil
1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon sea salt
- Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy.
Easy Tomato Sauce
(makes about 2 ½ – 3 cups)
2 ½ cups crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
½ cup tomato juice
3 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 bay leaf
2 slices red bell pepper
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil or 2 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat oil over low heat in large pot. Add chopped onions and sauté over low heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 5 more minutes.
- Stir in all remaining ingredients and cook over low heat for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Remove bay leaf and red pepper slices before serving.
“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.” ~Leo Tolstoy