Italian Flair - Show #109

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Quick Lasagna Rolls

Makes 4 to 6 servings

If you’re in the mood for lasagna but not in the mood to spend over an hour putting it together, try this simplified version. Because no sautéing is required, these fancy rolls are ready for the oven in less than thirty minutes.

8 whole-grain lasagna noodles

41⁄2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 jar (about 25 ounces) marinara sauce

14 to 16 ounces firm regular tofu, drained

1 cup chopped fresh basil

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1⁄2 teaspoon reduced-sodium tamari

5 to 6 large green olives, preferably queen or sevillano, pitted and chopped (optional)

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ

2 cups shredded vegan cheese (optional, see note)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the noodles. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are almost tender. Drain and rinse under cool water, then drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the oil and gently toss to coat. Allow the noodles to cool.

Meanwhile, stir 3 teaspoons of the oil into 1 cup of the marinara sauce. Spread the mixture in the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking pan. Put the tofu, 1⁄2 cup of the basil, and the parsley, tamari, and remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon of oil in a medium bowl and mash with a potato masher until the mixture has the consistency of ricotta cheese. Add the optional olives and the garlic and stir until thoroughly combined.

Lay a noodle on a large cutting board. Spoon about 1⁄4 cup of the tofu mixture along the length of the noodle, spreading it evenly with the back of the spoon. Gently roll into a spiral shape. Set the roll in the baking pan seam-side down. Continue with the remaining noodles and filling, arranging them snugly in the pan.

Set aside 3⁄4 cup of the remaining marinara sauce. Spoon the remainder over the rolls, distributing it evenly. Sprinkle 1⁄4 cup of the basil over the top.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven but do not turn the oven off. Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the rolls, then sprinkle with the wheat germ, vegan cheese (if using), and remaining 1⁄4 cup of basil. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the top is slightly browned.

Put the pan on a wire rack. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve 1 to 2 rolls per person, spooning the sauce from the bottom of the pan over top of the rolls.

NOTE: If you do not want to use the vegan cheese, just add a bit more wheat germ to the top of the casserole.


Basil Roasted Peppers

Makes 4 to 6 servings

6 large colored bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, or a combination), each cut into 4 or 5 pieces

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil, or 21⁄2 tablespoons dried

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the peppers, basil, oil, and salt in a large bowl. Toss to sparingly coat the peppers with the oil, adding a bit more oil if needed. Spread the peppers in a single layer on the lined baking sheet, skin-side up. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until soft to the touch and slightly browned along the edges.

Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.


Balsamic Strawberry Delight

Makes 3 to 4 servings

In this delectable dessert with a true Italian flair, the tart balsamic vinegar combines with the sweet brown sugar to produce a thick syrup that flavors and coats tender strawberries. This dish is wonderfully light and refreshing.

2 cups (1 pint) strawberries, halved

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Put all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir gently until thoroughly combined. Cover and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


Grandma’s Garlic Bread


This recipe is based on my grandmother’s version, which was always a favorite of mine. I’ve updated it to use fresh garlic and whole-grain bread, as it’s more nutritious and hearty. This tantalizing loaf, with its crispy crust and herbed, soft, and steamy inside, is bursting with flavor. In other words . . . perfection!

1 large loaf whole-grain italian bread

1⁄2 cup vegan margarine, at room temperature

6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon italian seasoning (see note)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the bread on a cutting board. Use a serrated bread knife to slice 1⁄2- to 1-inch-thick slices diagonally across the entire loaf, but don’t cut all the way through the bottom crust; leave the bottom of the loaf intact.

Put the margarine, garlic, and italian seasoning in a small bowl and mash with the back of a fork until thoroughly combined. Working carefully so as not to separate the slices, spread the margarine mixture on each side of each slice. Wrap tightly in foil, crimping the edges to form a tight seal (see note).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is crispy and the interior is hot and steamy. Remove the foil and serve the bread in a bread basket or large bowl, wrapped in a large cloth napkin to keep it warm.


●          If you have fresh herbs such as basil or oregano on hand, feel free to substitute about 3 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs for the italian seasoning, or add them along with the dried herbs.

●          Once the bread is wrapped in foil, it may be stored in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours before baking.


Broccoli Rabe with Garlic

Makes 4 servings

My friend Nino, who hails from Puglia, taught me how to make this authentic Italian dish. The slightly bitter yet sweet taste of broccoli rabe makes this dish a great accompaniment to Quick Lasagna Rolls.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon reduced-sodium tamari (optional)

Sea salt (optional)

Put 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet, then spread half of the broccoli rabe over it. Scatter the garlic over the broccoli rabe, then drizzle with half the remaining oil and sprinkle with the crushed red pepper flakes. Add a final layer of the remaining broccoli rabe and drizzle with the remaining oil. Press the broccoli rabe firmly into the skillet with the lid. Cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often and adding more oil or a bit of water as needed to prevent sticking. Season with the optional tamari, salt to taste, or both and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender and still bright green. Serve immediately.