Saturday, August 18, 2012

Recipe: Fake-meat lasagna that’s probably not fooling anyone but still tastes really good

“What’s for dinner?” Brian asked a few nights ago.

“Vegetarian lasagna!” I enthused, thinking that a loud, high-pitched, and overly excited reply would trick him into preferring fake meat.

He slunk out of the kitchen.
No matter how chipper my declaration, Brian will always prefer real meat in his lasagna, just as I will never support the sale or consumption of reduced-fat cheese, which, by my definition, flies in the face of living an enjoyable life. Why even bother getting out of bed in the morning if you routinely deny yourself the simple and profound pleasure of real cheese?
In truth, I am not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes by making faux-meat lasagna. I don’t expect anyone to be reeling in disbelief when I reveal, hidden-camera style, that what they’ve just eaten is not actually ground beef but a brilliant and beguiling imitation.
I find eating lasagna that’s made exclusively with vegetables to be a frustrating exercise in being hungry—and a little angry—ten minutes after eating. But because the faux-meat lasagna that I make employs a meat imitator rather than what is essentially hot salad squished in between noodles and sauce, it is a mighty tasty substitute for the real thing.
Making vegetarian lasagna also provides an excellent opportunity to get a knife into your child’s hands—not a phrase that usually generates excitement, I am aware. But helping out in the kitchen keeps your kid out of shenanigans while you’re trying to get dinner on the table. Plus, entrusting them with a knife makes them oddly careful and respectful of their task. Chloe is three years old and uses a butter knife to chop soft fruits and vegetables with aplomb.
The recipe gets its meaty heft from sautéed portabella mushrooms and the contents of a 9-ounce box of Veggie Patch-brand meatless meatballs (which thus should be simply referred to as “balls,” but I see the marketing problem that may pose).
Faux-meat lasagna
Adapted from the Barilla Four Layer No-boil Lasagna
You’ll need:
·         1 box of no-boil lasagna (although they spell it “lasagne” on the box, hmmm)
·         2 eggs
·         1 15-oz container of ricotta cheese
·         ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
·         1 package of veggie “meatballs” or veggie fake meat crumbles (I like Veggie Patch-brand meatless meatballs)
·         1 cup chopped portabella mushroom caps
·         2 jars marinara sauce
·         4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

 Here’s how to make it: 

·         Preheat oven to 375
·         Don’t boil the lasagna, but you can read, so I don’t need to tell you that
·         Put it all together
·         Beat eggs and stir in the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella and all of the parmesan
·         Sautee the mushrooms in olive oil and a pinch of salt until they’re soft; remove from heat
·         Break up the fake meatballs so they’re in chunks similar to ground beef and add to the mushrooms, just to incorporate
·         Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce on bottom of 13x9 baking pan
·         Layer 4 lasagna sheets, 1/3 of ricotta mixture, half of the “meat” and mushrooms, 1 cup of mozzarella, and 1 cup of sauce
·         Layer 4 lasagna sheets, 1/3 of ricotta mixture, and 1 ½ cups of sauce
·         Layer 4 lasagna sheets, the rest of the ricotta mixture and fake meat, and 1 cup of sauce
·         Layer 4 lasagna sheets, the rest of the sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella
·         Bake 50-60 minutes or until it’s bubbling
·         Let it set up for 15 or 20 minutes so it doesn’t become a soupy, runny mess the second you cut into it

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