I’m a sucker for raw versions of italian dishes. Italian food, or at least whatever I’ve had (italian american?) has got to be the most boring food ever. There are a few exceptions: gnocchi, and stuffed tomatoes (which I ate in Rome and never again). There are probably other foods I’ve had as well, though they aren’t coming to mind. Maybe I should rephrase my previous statement: Italian food isn’t all that bad but pasta is boring, polenta blows, and pizza is wayyy overrated. I’ve definitely had vegan pasta, polenta and pizza that made my heart sing but it wasn’t for any of those ingredients, it was for the beautiful vegetables that came with the dish. I also don’t eat cheese, not just because I’m a vegan and morally against it but also because I’ve never really cared much for it. Especially melted cheese… freaks me out. Luckily this is a vegan blog and I hopefully haven’t offended anyone yet!
So like any budding raw food enthusiast I set out to make a raw lasagna. I probably don’t count as a budding raw food enthusiast because I was a full-blown raw foodist for a year. I’ve made raw lasagna more times than I can remember. It’s an easy way to impress those who are new to raw foods because it really is so flavorful and fresh, while being super rich at the same time. I don’t get it, something about nuts. Or fat.
Usually in a raw lasagna, you will have thin layers of zucchini ‘noodles’ and thick slabs of tomatoes stacked tall between spreads of basil pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, and cashew ‘ricotta’. It’s a beautiful dish and surprisingly easy to make. I set out to make this basic dish though I planned on swapping out the sun-dried tomato marinara for a carrot pulp ‘Bolognese’. unfortunately this might sound gross, but carrot pulp is super meaty. When I have it on hand Ill sauté it with a bunch of veggies and throw it in a burrito or a sandwich. It’s dense and filling and just really satisfying to eat.
Being a good kid, I planned to pick up all of my produce from the afternoon farmers market for our raw lasagna. On the list were heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, and basil. It’s January and it’s hot here in Santa Barbara. Seriously I think it was 81 yesterday. At the farmers market I was able to grab beautiful heirloom tomatoes (did I mention its january?) however, zucchini and basil were no shows! So my recipe changed a bit and I grabbed cilantro and fennel instead. Fennel is italian, right? right?
Raw lasagna with Fennel
For the Carrot ‘Bolognese’
1 c. carrot pulp, though you can use 1 c. grated carrots instead if you don’t have a juicer
1 t. chili flake
2 T. tomato paste
Mix this up in a bowl and just be sure that the tomato paste is fully mixed through the carrot pulp. You could add extra chopped up tomatoes to this as well which would be super tasty, but I didn’t.
For the (nut free) pesto
1 T. olive oil
4 garlic cloves (I actually used 6 but it was way too much garlic)
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 T. nooch
pinch of salt
You could throw this all in the food processor which would make it super easy and quick to make but I was worried it might be too little for my food processor to do anything with. What I did instead was first I finely chopped the cilantro and threw it in a bowl. I then chopped the garlic as finely as I could, sprinkled it with salt and drizzled with olive oil. I then used the blade of my knife to try to smoosh the garlic into more of a paste texture. I added it to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mixed throughly.
For the cashew cheese
1 c. soaked cashews
2 T. nooch
1 t. miso
juice from one lemon
I threw all of these ingredients into the blender and blended until smooth. You may need to add a bit of hot water to the mixture to help facilitate blending.
For the lasagna
1 bulb of fennel sliced thinly on a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin you can just slice them thin with your knife.
3 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes sliced a bit on the thick side
It doesn’t matter which you choose to start building your lasagna with, but I wanted to build a solid base so I started with the tomatoes. If you are using zucchini it’s much easier to build a base because they sorta keep everything together. The fennel was kind of hard to work with so I just layered as best I could, then added the cashew cheese, carrot pulp and pesto. Repeat the layers until you have a good couple hunks of lasagna. A drizzle of olive oil and some fresh cracked pepper are a lovely way to finish off this dish.