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The best meatless lasagna and pizza. September 23, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. I make an absolutely primo vegetarian spaghetti sauce, jam-packed with veggies (sweet onions, mushrooms, garlic, bell peppers, diced zucchinis) and slowly cooked to rich, caramelized greatness with extra-virgin olive oil, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, a splash of hot sauce, plenty of herbs (basil, thyme, oregano) and salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare) and fresh-cracked pepper. Not to mention the two “secret ingredients,” a red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon poured in a circle around the top of the sauce, then stirred in, and a generous dash of sugar to deepen the flavor. (Search “spaghetti sauce” on our search bar at upper right to find the recipe, or just wing it.)

Yum! But, being me, I always make a big Dutch oven of sauce. Even if our friend Ben and I share it with our Friday Night Supper Club, we inevitably come home with a vat of leftover sauce. We love this luscious, warming spaghetti sauce, but, er, we don’t want to eat it day after day. I’ve found two answers to this problem: pizza and lasagna.

You might not immediately think of putting spaghetti sauce on a pizza, but it works perfectly. You already have an incredibly rich, flavorful, veggie-filled sauce. You’ve already done all the work. Now it’s time to take it easy and enjoy! I buy a ready-made crust and a jar or container of pesto, plus shredded mozzarella. When it’s pizza time, I spread the pesto over the crust, top it with my spaghetti sauce, top that with the mozzarella, sprinkle on more dried basil, oregano, and thyme (and crushed red pepper flakes if our heat-loving friends are coming for supper), and pop it into the oven.

Boy, talk about a great, easy meal. Throw a crunchy salad together, pass out the goblets of Cabernet (or iced tea or “fizzy water”), and you’re done!

But let’s talk about lasagna, the other great way to use up extra spaghetti sauce so you’re not faced with “What, spaghetti again?”

I’ve ranted before about how much I hate the so-called “vegetarian lasagna” you’re invariably faced with in restaurants, which is veggies in a white sauce with lasagna noodles. What on earth does this have to do with lasagna? Marinara sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella is both vegetarian and authentic, so why don’t they ever offer that?

Fortunately, if you make your own spaghetti sauce, you can have luscious lasagna that tastes like lasagna, not pasta primavera. And I’ve discovered three tricks to make it even more delicious.

First, make it easy. Use San Giorgio “oven-ready” lasagna noodles so you don’t have to boil the pasta before assembling the lasagna.

Next, replace the ricotta with plain Greek yogurt. I discovered this when I wanted to make lasagna and realized that I didn’t have any ricotta, but had a big carton of plain Greek yogurt. Gulp, I thought, I guess I’ll just try this and see what happens. It was the best lasagna I ever ate! The creamy Greek yogurt was perfect, with all those good probiotics and none of the graininess of ricotta. (Eeeww, sorry, texture-sensitive.)

My final trick was to add eggplant. It happened because I had some slim oriental eggplants on hand and needed to use them. I’d planned to roast them and add them to the lasagna, but was short on time, so I thinly sliced them and sauteed them in olive oil instead, then layered them on top of the spaghetti sauce layer in the lasagna.

Oh, boy! They added meaty richness to the lasagna and made it so incredible I’ve never looked back. Rich, chunky, veggie-filled spaghetti sauce, cooked slowly and given plenty of time to develop its flavors. Sauteed eggplant. Greek yogurt. Mozzarella. Try this and see, it’s so amazing. Go for it!

‘Til next time,



How not to make a vegan pizza. July 25, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Let’s say you’ve become a vegan and are desperately craving pizza, but you’re not up for pseudo-cheese. Here’s what you shouldn’t do: Send our friend Ben out to a local pizza place to get a takeout pizza where half has no cheese and is topped with mushrooms and onions. As my college roommate, Ellen Rogers, would have said, “Grahdoo, honey!!!”

First of all, you need a whole-wheat crust to give the pizza some depth of flavor. And next, in the absence of cheese, you need a lot of really rich, luscious tomato sauce, not just a dab of jarred stuff smeared over the pizza so it’s barely even visible. I’ll give the restaurant credit for adding plenty of both mushrooms and onions. But the slices would have been far better with some oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt (or seasoned herb salt) to kick them up a notch, as Emeril would say.

I think the crust and sauce are the keys here, and I’m still convinced despite last night’s disaster that a hearty, satisfying vegan pizza is possible. Suggestions?

           ‘Til next time,