Dairy Free, Soy Free. Really?

Seriously, is life even worth living at that point?  I have my doubts.  A friend of mine recently presented me with this challenge, and I was intrigued by it.  How does one make a meal without butter, cheese, cream, or any of the other things that make life worth living?

I went to the Italian place of my culinary soul (because I’m a masochist) and couldn’t get lasagna out of my head.  So here follows my version of a sausage and vegetable lasagna with fresh pasta and almond milk béchamel sauce.  I used Blue Diamond unsweetened almond milk and I think it turned out really well.

 

Dairy Free, Soy Free Lasagna

  • 1 Recipe Lasagna Sauce (see below)
  • 1 Recipe Almond Milk Béchamel Sauce (see below)
  • 1 pound lasagna noodles, about 2 minutes undercooked (I made fresh ones, but dried is fine)

Ladle in some sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  Layer on noodles, spread a layer of béchamel sauce over the noodles, then top with sauce.  Repeat, alternating layers, until the noodles run out or the pan is too full.  Make sure your last layer of noodles is completely covered with sauce or it will dry out and get crunchy.

Lasagna Sauce

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 – 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 8 ounce can tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large stockpot over medium high heat.  Add a tablespoon or so oil and heat until shimmering.  Add sausage and brown well.  Remove meat from pan and drain off all but a couple of tablespoons of fat.  Add the onions and mushrooms, sprinkle with a little kosher salt and sauté until well browned.

While the onions and mushrooms are cooking, lay out the eggplant in a single layer on a plate lined with paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt and then microwave for 2 minutes.  Once the onion and mushrooms are browned, add the eggplant and continue to sauté over medium heat until it breaks down a bit.  Add zucchini and sauté until it starts to soften.  Add red peppers and hit it with another sprinkle of kosher salt.  Sauté all of the vegetables until they are soft, and then push the veg to the sides so there is a small empty space in the middle.  Throw in the garlic and cook it until it starts to smell good. 

Add all of the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.  (This sauce is actually best the next day, so if you can plan that far ahead, go for it.) 

Almond Milk Béchamel Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, warmed in the microwave
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Heat oil in sauce pan,  Add garlic and sauté for a minute or so.  Add flour and mix until it turns into a paste.  Cook until the paste turns a light brown color.  Whisk in the almond milk over medium heat and it will thicken nicely after a minute or so.  Add salt and pepper and then taste it.  Remove the pan from the heat and then add the freshly grated nutmeg. 

Fresh Pasta

  • 1 pound bread flour
  • 5 eggs (the fresher the better)
  • large pinch of kosher salt

Mix it all in the food processor until it looks like yellow pebbles.  Dump it all out onto a floured surface and knead it for a couple of minutes.  Put it in a ziploc bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. After the dough is rested, roll it out as thin as possible and cut into lasagna sized strips.