Submitted by Andrea Procopio
About the cook: Hello! I am a 33 year old “semi-millennial” haha living in Southern California with my boyfriend and adorable rescue Chiweenie dog, Norma. I was born in Chicago, IL to a large Italian family with 3 sisters, two nieces, and a whole lot of girl power. I am a Vegan, animal activist, and super dedicated in “veganizing” every meal- that includes the one’s my Italian family think can never be touched. Ive been passionately cooking since my little eyes could see over the kitchen stove, and pride most of my skills from passed down female generations. One of my biggest goals is to bring back the joy of cooking, the understanding of food, and the knowledge of sustainable awareness “set all on top of one table” to any lifestyle without daily pressures replacing what’s important: collectively bonding over food!
About the dish: A heartwarming, home cooked Italian staple that’s 100 percent vegan, and 100 percent “nonna” approved! This flavorful dish will fool anyone into thinking that it’s “the real deal” packed with protein, sweet basil gravy, almond ricotta, melty “mozzarella” and fennel-stuffed plant based sausage.
National Origin: Italian
Estimated Time: 1 to 2 Hours
For Sweet Basil Gravy:
1 can CrushedTomatoes
2 cans Tomato paste
Fresh garlic cloves, fresh basil leaves, salt/pepper/Italian seasonings
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
OPTIONAL: FOR SHORTER COOK TIME: Use 2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce, sweet basil flavor recommended.
2 1-ob boxes vegan no boil Lasagna Noodles
1 package vegan Italian Sausage
Dried fennel seeds
For “cheese” filling:
1 package vegan mozzarella
1 bunch fresh Italian Flatleaf Parsley
1 container Vegan Parmesan Shreds
2 8oz containers Almond Ricotta cheese
1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
To make “Nonna’s sweet basil gravy”, coat bottom of large sauce pot with EVOO, add 4-5 cloves smashed and peeled fresh garlic. Brown, steep in olive oil, then take out. Add minced shallots and cook till translucent. Add 1 can tomato paste & fill empty can with water, then add to pot. Stir, and repeat. Add can of crushed tomatoes, and fill that empty can with water & add to pot twice. Season aggressively and add 5 large leaves of fresh basil. Cover and cook sauce, stirring, until reduced and thickened into a nice gravy, approximately 3 hours for best flavor.
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 mozzarella package, ricotta cheeze, a very large bunch of chopped fresh parsley, salt/pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and 1/2 container of Parmesan. Mix until combined well, should be chunky/grainy texture. Set aside.
-Brown Vegan Sauage in a cast-iron skillet according to package. (For BEST results, split open the casing and brown sausage as “ground” instead of slices. This will help flavor everything.). Add dried fennel seeds, garlic powder and basil to sausage. Set aside.
-In a greased (vegan butter-rubbed) 9×13 baking dish, ladle a 1/2 cup of gravy evenly covering the bottom of dish. Add the no-boil noodles, layered flat using approximately 4 noodles (you can break some noodles to fit pan evenly).
-Spread 1 cup layer of Ricotta mixture on top, making sure it covers everything.
-Sprinkle a thick layer of vegan sausage crumbles on top of the ricotta mixture.
-Layer 4 more Lasagna Noodles on top, in the opposite direction as before. This is to keep a cris-cross when finished as it holds the “square” together better.
-Repeat entire process starting with gravy, then cheese, sausage, lasagna noodles, and more gravy layered to top of baking dish with about 1 inch available space.
-For FINAL “bechemel” style topping: make a quick roux of flour & 2 Tbs vegan butter, slowly add unsweetened almond milk, constantly whisking until a “cream sauce” forms. Add 1 cup of leftover ricotta mixture to sauce and mix.. it should turn into a cheeze “alfredo-like” sauce. Ladle cheeze sauce over baking dish.
-Sprinkle more mozzarella and fresh basil on top and cover dish wish aluminum foil.
-Baked in oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
-Remove foil, return dish back to oven at 425 degrees and cook until cheeze browns, approx 10 more minutes.
Remove dish and LET COOL for at least 15 minutes before slicing, as everything will be piping hot and will mush apart. Serve with extra gravy side and grated vegan parm.