New to Gluten-Free Cooking?
Begin With Recipes You Only Have to Alter Slightly
When you first go gluten free, it can feel overwhelming. There is a lot to learn and remember. Cooking and baking are more complex than simply using all gluten-free ingredients.
One trick that can help make the transition easier is to begin with recipes that you only have to alter slightly in order to make them safe. Many people think of lasagna as comfort food, so it's a good place to begin. Since it only takes safe noodles and a flavorful sauce, once you learn how to make gluten-free lasagna, it will give you more confidence to branch out and experiment with recipes that are more difficult.
Whether you're a vegetarian, a meat-eater, or following a low-carb diet, lasagna offers a great place to really show off your creative abilities in the kitchen. It's also one of the best choices when you need to cook for a large group. You can assemble the casserole ahead of time, and then bake it just before you need to serve it.
Gluten-Free Pasta Sauce Brands
Thanks to affordable, ready-to-cook gluten-free lasagna noodles or thinly sliced and baked eggplant, it’s easy to turn your favorite jar of spaghetti sauce into a fantastic meal. Ready-made pasta sauces can make a satisfying lasagna casserole, but not all sauces are gluten free. The following brands are safe. Exceptions are in parenthesis:
- Aunt Millie's
- Del Monte (but not "meat-flavored")
- Five Brothers
- Hunt's (but not "with meat," "Italian with Sausage", or "Italian four cheese")
- Newman's Own
However, this is only a partial listing. Since I'm extra-sensitive to gluten and try to avoid high-fructose corn syrup as much as possible, I don't use ready-made sauces anymore. I prefer to make my own. If your favorite brand isn't on this list, simply call the company and ask them if the sauce is gluten free. The phone number will be on the label.
Best Gluten-Free Pasta for Lasagna
Lasagna is one of the easiest meals to convert, but if you pick a gluten-free pasta that requires you to pre-boil the noodles, it can turn into a sticky mess rather quickly. The same problem occurs with regular wheat pasta as well. Shortly before going gluten free, I started using oven-ready lasagna noodles because it made the task simpler, and far less time consuming.
Many people prefer to use Tinkyada brown-rice pasta for all of their gluten-free needs, but I’ve never been able to get the texture to come out right. Tinkyada lasagna noodles tend to stick together while boiling, even when you add a little oil to the water, and most of the time, they also fall apart. That can make assembling the lasagna more difficult. In addition, they bake up gummy and tough, which makes the finished casserole especially difficult to cut and serve.
I don’t know if it’s because we live at a high altitude (about 5,800 feet), use a Corningware casserole dish, or if it’s just that we don’t like our pasta a’ la dente, but I’ve always preferred to use DeBoles oven-ready gluten-free lasagna noodles because they always come out perfect for me.
What is Gluten-Free Lasagna Sauce?
If you want something a little more special that doesn’t require you to spend hours in the kitchen, homemade lasagna sauce can be simple to throw together, as well as tasty.
Lasagna sauce is simply an extra-thick spaghetti sauce that’s a bit more spicy, so it will penetrate and flavor the noodles. Although I always make mine in a crock pot, if you don’t have a slow cooker, you can certainly simmer the sauce over the stove. To do that, just double the amount of water called for in the recipe, stir the pot often, and add additional water as it cooks down, if needed.
How to Make Traditional Gluten-Free Lasagna Sauce
Lasagna sauce should be thicker than a traditional spaghetti sauce. The consistency should be more like a thick stew. Other than that, you make the sauce exactly like you do for spaghetti. The trick is in the ingredients and seasonings. While a lengthy simmer has been known to be the secret behind many pasta sauces, this special gluten-free pasta sauce takes that a step further.
Flavor is the key, and this sauce packs a lot of flavor due to the secret that my oldest son discovered shortly after his wife was diagnosed with Diabetes. Since gluten-free pasta doesn't carry a lot of flavor on its own, the sauce needs to be particularly spicy in order to penetrate the noodles. While I've always used a mild or sweet Italian sausage, its the "hot" variety that really makes a difference in this sauce.
The following gluten-free lasagna sauce recipe makes enough for a deep, square bake dish, three layers thick, which will serve 4 to 6 people. If you’re cooking for a larger family, want leftovers, or are feeding a crowd, simply double the ingredients and use a 9 x 13 pan instead. If you don't eat pork, you can use 3/4 pound of ground beef, but you'll want to add some fennel seeds (crushed is best) and dried hot pepper flakes to perk up the flavor. Also make sure that your spices are gluten free.
- 1 link of Italian sausage (or about 3 to 4 ounces of bulk sausage)
- 1/2 pound of ground beef, 80-percent lean
- 1/2 of a bell pepper, chopped (mix red and green if you like)
- 1/2 of an onion, chopped
- 6-ounce can of tomato paste
- 1-1/2 cans of water
- 16-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, including liquid
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- a small bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb Seasoning Blend
- salt or seasoning salt to taste
- Slit the casing of the sausage link down one side and crumble the meat into a frying pan. Discard the casing.
- Add ground beef, bell peppers, and onions. Cook and stir until well browned.
- In your crock pot, add tomato paste, water, canned tomatoes, sugar, and seasonings. If you like your sauce more salty than sweet, you can use less sugar. Stir well.
- Add the meat mixture from the frying pan, and stir to blend.
- Cover the crock pot, and cook on low for about 6 to 8 hours.
Assembling the Gluten-Free Lasagna
If you don’t need to use gluten-free lasagna noodles, simply follow the same instructions but use traditional, oven-ready lasagna noodles instead.
- 9 lasagna noodles
- 1 recipe of lasagna sauce
- 1 cup of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces Monterey jack or mozzarella cheese, grated
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the bottom of your baking dish, place a thin layer of lasagna sauce.
On top of the noodles, carefully spoon about one-third of the pasta sauce. Since it’s an extra-thick sauce, you’ll need to gently smooth it out as evenly as possible. If some of the noodles show through, that’s okay. Spoon small dollops of cottage cheese over the top of the sauce, spacing the cheese mounds about 2-inches apart or so. You can smooth them out a bit, if you like. If you use too much soft cheese, it will make the lasagna too runny, so only use about one-half of a cup for the cheese layer.
Top with one-third of the grated cheese.
Repeat with another layer of uncooked noodles. The second layer can easily take advantage of any broken noodles you have. Simply piece them together like a puzzle, but try not to overlap them any more than necessary.
Add about half of the lasagna sauce you have left, the rest of the cottage cheese, and about one-half of the grated cheese. Repeat with a third layer of uncooked noodles, the rest of the sauce, and then the rest of the grated cheese. Cover the lasagna tightly with foil. Bake for one hour.
Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the casserole to sit for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving. That will help the cheese to thicken up a bit, which will make cutting and serving easier.
Typically, I serve this with a lettuce salad, and garlic bread that I make out of my gluten-free hamburger buns. I simply cut them in half, then spread with garlic butter and toast in the oven while the lasagna is cooling. For dessert, my favorite is a nice gluten-free chocolate cake.
Leftovers reheat well. To reheat, place the pasta in a new pan, and add a bit of water to help the pasta steam while reheating. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. If the casserole is going from refrigerator to oven, it will take a full hour to heat through.
Gluten-Free Vegetable Lasagna
Although a tomato sauce is traditional, vegetarian lasagna can be made with a variety of different sauces. Which type you choose to use depends on the flavor you want, and what types of vegetables you're using. In the following video, the cook uses a lightly flavored Hunt's tomato sauce, which is gluten free. Just make sure you use gluten-free lasagna noodles, and not the noodles she uses.
Gluten-Free Vegetable Lasagna with Tomato Sauce
Gluten-Free Spinach Lasagna
This easy spinach lasagna recipe is made with a béchamel sauce rather than a tomato sauce. That’s simply a white sauce. Traditionally, béchamel is made with all-purpose wheat flour, but you can use cornstarch to make it gluten free.
One of the nice things about lasagna is that you aren't tied down to ingredients or amounts. You can make the recipe exactly as shown in the video down below the sauce recipe, or you can add additional vegetables, such as onions and mushrooms, to give it more flavor. Once again, make sure you use gluten-free lasagna noodles.
Gluten-Free Bechamel Sauce
- 4 cups milk
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup butter
In a large saucepan, whip the cornstarch into the milk with a wire whisk until nice and smooth. Add the butter. Heat over a low flame, stirring constantly, until butter melts, and the sauce bubbles and thickens. Continue stirring and cooking for a couple of minutes. Then cool slightly.
Gluten-Free Spinach Lasagna with White Sauce
Gluten-Free Eggplant Lasagna
Even if you aren’t following a low-carb diet, gluten-free eggplant lasagna offers a fantastic substitute for gluten-free noodles. The eggplant does take a few minutes to prepare, but if safe noodles aren’t available, eggplant makes an excellent and easy alternative as shown in the following video.
Low-Carb Eggplant Lasagna is Gluten Free
Eggplant noodles can be made with any of the lasagna recipes in this article. You don’t have to make your eggplant lasagna with double the meat and a jar of spaghetti sauce as the video did. Eggplant noodles would go well with my lasagna sauce recipe, the vegetable lasagna, or even the spinach lasagna. Once you learn how to make gluten-free lasagna, you could even use the ideas presented here and come up with your own version. Chicken with cheese sauce, meatballs and stroganoff gravy, or baby shrimp combined with frozen peas and carrots in a curry gravy would all make tasty gluten-free lasagna ideas.