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Ina' Garten's Lasagna

I would like to try Ina Garten's "Parker's Lasagna" However, one of the people to whom I would serve it is vegetarian. This particular lasagna includes 3 cheeses and sausage. Do you think I can just omit the sausage (veg sausage wouldn't work cause the texture disgusts the vegetarian) or is there something I can replace it with that would keep the lasagna truer to the original?
I often make just cheese lasagna, and that is fine with all. Can I try this one without the sausage and without compromising the taste?

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  1. bxgirl, what do you think about replacing the texture of sausage for a meaty mushroom? I'd brown the mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil. I like baby portabella for this and then add to your filling layers.

    2 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      Great idea!! I think I might try that. I'm curious, though, as to how important the sausage is to this particular recipe.

      1. re: HillJ

        HillJ, we must be mind melding! i thought "mushrooms" as i was reading bxgirl's dilemma.

        i think i might pre-cook the mushies to eliminate the extra moisture....or adjust sauces to take advantage of it.

      2. I'd add some typical sausage flavors to the mushroom (fennel seed, maybe some Italian mixes). Also consider eggplant (if you can find any in the stores!) I was vegetarian for nearly 20 years, and I used roasted eggplant all the time, along w/ mushrooms, in my lasagna.

        3 Replies
        1. re: pine time

          pine time, two excellent...no make that three (fennel, basil, oregano, garlic) excellent ideas! I would prepare the eggplant the same way as mushrooms in olive oil before adding it to the lasagna.

          1. re: HillJ

            toasted and ground fennel seeds give something that "italian sausage" flavor -- and i add it to spaghetti sauce all the time (but then again, i love fennel**).

            i would be careful cooking the eggplant in olive oil prior to layering in the lasagne, because that might get awfully heavy, as the eggplant is a sponge. i'm thinking that the eggplant *might* be better just sliced more thinly, and put in raw. or if you're not comfy with that, then pre-bake with a light spray of olive oil -- like from a mister.

            come to think of it, small cubes of mushroom (mentioned above) and eggplant (with the maybe-partially-ground fennel seed) might be a better texture to approximate ground sausage -- instead of slices, which often don't "cut" well after you've got a piece of lasagne on your plate. (the slices sort of "pull out" from the layers).
            ** big honkin' fennel thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/576330

          2. re: pine time

            Where were you when I was trying to make bolognese with fake meat for my lasagna a few days ago? I should have just done a mushroom version, but the inclusion of eggplant and fennel would have been fantastic! I am kicking myself. I just suggested moussaka on another vegetarian thread.

            I can't *wait* to try it this way.

          3. Ina made a delicious-looking mushroom lasagna on a recent show...

            1. Just a thought; why not set some aside for a smaller baking dish for the veg, and make the rest with sausage? I'd really miss the sausage in my lasagna recipe, for taste and texture.

              1. I say make a recipe that is supposed to be meatless and save this one for when you're serving all carnivores. Since there's no need to always have meat at a meal, I think it is nicer to serve a dish that doesn't make the vegetarian odd man out.

                4 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  When I was a vegetarian, the special dish made me feel like the most special guest. And I often do it for others, too.

                  1. re: mcf

                    I figure if there's no meat at the table we don't run the risk of the being asked why they're a vegetarian which I think is a good subject to avoid when there is meat on the table. But that's just me:)

                    1. re: escondido123

                      Been there, done that, it's NBD. ;-)

                      1. re: mcf

                        Glad to hear that. Last time I was at a dinner where the subject came it, it turned into a YEAID sort of discussion. ;)

                2. Thanks, all!! What really great ideas. The fennel addition is brilliant!! I think I'll do chopped mushrooms (or should they be sliced?) and fennel, oregano, basil. Would eggplant be overkill? I think I'll saute the mushroom, first, and then add them. Thinking I'll try the eggplant another time.
                  Thanks,again. You people are the best!!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bxgirl

                    You can cut the mushrooms to any nice slice but consider adding the fennel seed to the pan just as the mushrooms are near done so the heat pulls the fennel essence out and the slight toast releases maximum flavor.

                    I agree eggplant AND mushrooms would be overkill in the same lasagna but mostly because they both hold alot of moisture and you don't want a soupy result. Also flavor wise, the eggplant would get lost.

                    Happy cooking!

                    1. re: HillJ

                      I can't thank you enough for your responses and helpful information. Youhave been wonderful!!
                      One last, (probably dumb) question... when I use fennel seeds, do I grind the seeds, or use them as they are?

                      1. re: bxgirl

                        bxgirl, good catch on the fennel ?!

                        Toast a tablespoon first (in a dry pan w/out anything else) then I would grind them and then depending on your taste preference (how much fennel flavor you want) I would best judge the amt. to add to the pan with mushrooms. You can add a tsp at a time from the tablespoon you toast & grind.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          You are the best teacher!!! You are patient and explain things very well. I truly appreciate your help.

                          1. re: bxgirl

                            bxg, I still learn new tricks/tips/ways in the kitchen myself. Be sure to post back on how the lasagna worked out so I can learn from you.

                  2. I've given up all meats and seafood for Lent this year. Have made two outstanding vegetarian lasagnas. One is a recipe from "Recipes for a Small Planet" that my family has been making and eating 30+ years. The "meat" is actually kidney beans and mushrooms. Very tasty! The other is a new recipe "Hearty Vegetable Lasagna w/ Shitake Mushrooms". (I actually used a combo of mushrooms.) It includes layers of eggplant, spinach, zucchini, and mushrooms. Equally delicious. If interested, I'd be happy to post the recipes. I actually prefer both of these to the "traditional" lasagnas with meat.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Phoebe

                      I've gone ovo-lacto veg for Lent, too, and just made a wonderful (if do say so myself) white lasagna with spinach and asparagus earlier this week- even the total carnivores loved it.

                    2. Phoebe and JenJen,
                      I am curious about your vegeatian/vegan recipes. Please share!!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: bxgirl

                        i'm interested, too, in having a recipe for vegan lasagne, as i have to go to a potluck and need a vegan dish.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Check out the 'Vegan Comfort Food' recipes on Chow - the lasagne is pretty good!


                        2. re: bxgirl

                          Here's the recipes....Please report back if you do prepare. I'd love to see your comments.

                          MEATLESS LASAGNA adapted from ( Recipes for a Small Planet)

                          lasagna noodles, cooked

                          1 med onion, diced

                          4 garlic cloves, minced

                          1 28oz canned tomatoes

                          1+ lb. mushrooms, chopped (I use a variety. Recipe calls for white button)

                          1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

                          1 cup ricotta

                          1 cup cottage cheese (I have used 2 cups of cottage cheese & no ricotta before)

                          1 egg

                          1/2 cup parm cheese

                          3/4 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded

                          any herbs you may have on hand (Recipe calls for dried oregano, basil, & parsley)

                          Pre-cook noodles, set aside. Saute' onions & garlic. Add tomatoes, herbs, mushrooms and kidney beans. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, cottage cheese and egg. (I also add some Locatelli or parm to the mixture, your choice.) Layer lasagna. A tiny bit of sauce, noodles, 1/3 of remaining sauce,1/3 of the ricotta/cottage cheese mixture, 1/3 mozz.cheese, 1/3 parm. cheese, noodles. Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with parm cheese. Bake @ 375* for 30 minutes.

                          The "Hearty Vegetable Lasagna w/ Mushrooms" can be found on: justveggingout.com. I did make a few changes. I added a ricotta layer when layering, although it's not necessary. Used a variety of mushrooms...shitake, portabellas, white button, etc. Changed out the yellow squash layer, using zucchini slices instead. Used 2 eggplants, not just one. I have a mandoline, so I used long slices of all of the veggies, instead of small slices as pictured on the site. Another big change with the veggies is I did not saute' them in a pan. I baked the slices in the oven til they were soft, about 10 minutes. This is my new favorite. Enjoy!!!

                        3. Being someone who is (is repulsed too strong a word) turned off by mushrooms and is someone who loves making and eating Ina's lasagna, how about using roasted vegetables (cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots.....)in the lasgna. The roasting adds another layer of flavor which I think goes well with the goat cheese and the rest and you have a firmer "mouth feel" as opposed to the slimey (oops, too strong a word again) texture. Trust me, if didn't replace the sausage with anything other that fennel et al, you'd still have a great dish. Good luck with it.

                          1. Cooks Illustrated has a four cheese lasagna that is insanely rich and delicious! Add a little mushroom and spinach and it's perfect for a nice side and main dish for your guest.

                            1. Using fennel is a great suggestion.

                              About mushrooms, another great idea, I strongly encourage trying dried porcini, which not only taste awesome, but, because dried, they won't precipitate a lot of moisture into the lasagna. (I'd still follow standard practice of soaking them a half hour or more in warm water in order to rehydrate a bit, and also to facilitate rinsing, as they can be gritty otherwise.)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                I make a copy of Stouffers Veggie Lasagna with spinach,carrots and broccoli with a wite wine cheese sauce thats awesome, I just monkeyed around with recipes I found to get the right mix, but its my favorite especially homemade....