Vegan Italian Sausage Casserole
My Mom used to make a casserole when I was little that was one of my favorite things. It had pasta, a flavorful red sauce, sausage, and cheese. I could have done without the sausage, because I have never been a meat fan, but it always tasted amazing, like lasagna but so much easier to make for my Mom. I decided this week, that I wanted to recreate a vegan version of this pasta. I have lots of pasta in my cupboard, all of the bean variety. You know, made from lentils and edamame? Wonderful food invention I have been loving lately since I am always looking to add more protein to my meals, and I try to stay away from gluten the majority of the time. If you haven't heard of it, check it out HERE.
So anyways, back to the pasta dish I made, instead of the sausage I opted for chickpeas, since I have used them as a substitute for pasta before. I made a flavorful red sauce, with all of the seasonings my Mom used to include, and made a vegan mozzarella so that it could still have the melty cheese on top that I loved so much. Once it was all bubbly delicious from its time spent in the oven, I could not wait to try it. It smelled wonderful and just as good as my Mom's, and it tasted even better. This dish would be perfect to serve to non-vegans to prove to them that they can still have cheesy comfort food.
Vegan Italian Sausage Casserole
1 15 oz can full fat organic coconut milk
2 Tbsp arrowroot starch
1/4 plus 1 Tbsp filtered water
1 Tbsp agar powder
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 tsp guar gum
Sausage and Sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
sea salt to taste
1 28 oz can tomatoes
To make the mozzarella cheese, heat the coconut milk in a saucepan, until it comes to a simmer.
Meanwhile, dissolve the arrowroot starch in the water and set aside.
Once the coconut milk has come to a simmer, add the agar powder, and heat until it is dissolved , it should dissolve within one minute.
Next, add the lemon juice and sea salt to the coconut milk.
Mix the coconut oil with the guar gum so that the guar gum does not clump up.
Turn off the heat and add the arrowroot mixture, guar gum and coconut oil. Whisk for about 30 seconds, then pour into a silicone mold (I used a loaf pan, but if you had another shape you would like to use go ahead). Refrigerate for a few hours until firm, then pop out of the mold. Shred into a bowl, and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside.
To make the sausage and sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan, add garlic and herbs and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the chickpeas, and cook for a few minutes, mashing them against the side of the pan. Add the tomatoes, and simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Once it has finished cooking, stir in the pasta, then 1/2 the cheese. Pour into an oiled baking dish, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until bubbling and cheese has melted.