Deconstructed Lasagna (Pasta)

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Great responses to yesterday’s post! I’ve been meaning to talk about fasting for a while, and was hoping it would spark a discussion as thoughtful as that one.

One thing that kept coming up in the comments was the idea of lightness, and how raw foodism often serves to preserve that feeling while all the while providing nourishment. I think this is true, of course: it’s the reason so many former ED sufferers find themselves attracted to eating raw (I include myself here). And in many ways, I think this is a very good thing indeed. Because it offers satiety without feelings of intense fullness or weightiness, raw foodism (or semi-raw foodism) does seem to have the power to free many people from lifetimes of food guilt and disordered eating.

It’s also true that anyone who’s ever pursued feelings of lightness in the extreme has to proceed with caution when getting interested in raw foods. I’ve seen many women move from healthy raw diets to raw diets with less and less density, ending up at greens and smoothies, and not much else. Raw foodism becomes yet another slippery slope down which they slide toward starvation. This is why I get so angry when I hear prominent raw foodists extolling the virtues of abstinence, fasting, and emptiness. To enjoy feelings of lightness is one thing; to enjoy feelings of emptiness is another. The distinction might be subtle sometimes, but the onus is on all men and women who explore raw to keep it alive.

If you can find a way to enjoy nutrient dense meals that are nevertheless unlikely to make you feel hot, tired, or hefty, that’s pretty great. Take tonight’s dinner. It was a spin on a raw fooder classic: raw lasagna with zucchini, pesto, cashew cheese, and raw tomato sauce. A famously incredible rendition is my friend Sarma’s leading entree at Pure Food and Wine, and it’s every bit as spectacular as the hype suggests. The thing about raw lasagna is that it’s not always fun to make at home: I’ve done it (using Sarma’s recipe from Raw Food, Real World), and it was awesome, but it involved a lot of moving parts and a lot of delicate slicing of zucchini and tomato.

Tonight, I was craving that very lasagna, and was fortunate enough to have most of what I’d need for it: zucchini, my raw “goat cheese,” made with cashews; leftover red pepper marinara (which had gone in an entree earlier this week that I can’t wait to blog about), and some pesto sauce. What I wasn’t in the mood for was careful layering of anything. So I decided to deconstruct raw zucchini lasagna and turn it into zucchini pasta instead, slathering the dish with marinara, pesto, and cheese. Insta-lasagna, if you will, without any of the fuss. I even opted not to dirty my spiralizer, and gave the zucchini a quick shred on my mandolin. Proof that no one needs a spiralizer to make zucchini pasta at home!

The dish, then, is easy: spiralize or shred one zucchini, and top it with about 1/4 cup of my red pepper marinara sauce. Dot it with a tablespoon or two of cashew cheese (my raw “goat cheese” is great for this) and a drizzle of pesto, if you have it; if you don’t, a few sprigs of basil will work equally well. In a few moments, you’ve got lasagna flavors in a (raw) spaghetti bowl:

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So. Totally. Delicious. Check out all of the yummy sauces:

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I balanced out my meal with a raw kale salad topped with hemp nuts—my favorite!

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And dinner was served:

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This meal was filling and comforting, but it left me feeling comfortable and energetic enough to focus on work and writing. That, I think, is where raw meals can be so extraordinary. Since leaving my own ED behind, I’ve actually come to savor the feel of a dense and grounding meal in my belly. In fact, I often don’t like to eat all raw over the course of a day because I miss the heft of some whole grains or beans or other cooked foods. But I love raw foods for offering me meals like this—nutrient rich to the extreme, but easy on the body.

How do you feel about eating for groundedness vs. lightness (forgive the simplistic dichotomy, please)? Do you feel that you can enjoy the sensation of lightness after a raw meal without becoming overly fixated on it? How?

Happy weekend!


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Categories: Main Dishes
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Raw

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  1. As I am recovering from a binge eating disorder, your blog (and others like Sarma’s, and even the few posts on Discovering Raw) have really helped me to learn about realistic food-realistic portion sizes, types of fats/proteins/veggies, and basically just balance. Now, I love that if I go a little too far on a bowl of zucchini pasta (just out of habit of eating beyond a comfortable full), the discomfort of being too full really only lasts ten minutes and then I am comfortable again. It is helping me to learn how to troubleshoot my portion sizes, and I am really grateful for that. It seems extremely silly, but sometimes coming out of my ED feels like I am an absolute infant learning all about how to EAT from scratch! It is surreal.

  2. I must admit, when I hear certain raw foodists talking about how you have to keep decreasing the amount you eat or else “the detoxification slows and you start aging again” (what?) or that raw food, especially when you keep decreasing the amount eaten, helps “move you to a higher vibrational energy”, I find myself thinking Based on personal experience, that sounds like low blood sugar-induced spaciness and lightheadedness. Maybe you should eat more.

    One of the reasons I like raw food is that it seems easier to find a balance between feeling light and still feeling satisfied and nourished. But the difference between “light” meaning “I feel like I have more energy and stamina instead of something heavy lodged in my lower belly; let’s go do stuff!” and “light” meaning “spacey, lightheaded, drifty” is an important one.

  3. I made Sarma’s lasagna recipe a couple of times before I got a mandolin slicer and it was difficult and time consuming, but since I bought the Bron slicer the recipe is a snap. It’s a little pre-soaking, three batches in the food processor (I start with the light colored cheesy sauce and progress to the dark tomato sauce so I don’t need to rinse the processor bowl between), the Bron makes such quick work of the zucchini that I have a hard time not slicing too many, and my tomato slices aren’t particularly slender and therefore not hard to make. After that, it’s the gooey hands-on fun of layering it all in the pan. The real challenge of the recipe for me is getting all the ingredients together. That’s not easy during the off-season.

  4. Looks fabulous Gena! All those great flavours without the fidgety work.

    I love that lasagne at Pure – amazing!!

  5. In the early stages of recovery, I made my first foray into raw food because of the very lightedness that you describe. I recognized pretty quickly what was happening, and hence moved away from it entirely. Years later, I went about a raw food diet from an entirely different perspective – as a means for curing an auto-immune disorder – and with proper guidance and a balanced mind, I learned that the feeling I got from eating that way did not stem from a desire to consume air, but rather from a place of wanting maximum nutrition. Thanks for this post, and I appreciate you bringing up what could be a hard topic for some.

  6. Wow Gena, you put that so well. I realize how extremely I vacillated between these two extremes, lightness and fullness, during the peak points of my eating disorder. The heavier, more grounding foods were the hardest to hold in; while I turned to foods that felt lighter and easier to absorb, foods that were “barely there” and cleaner, for nutrients. When I had been eating a very low fat raw vegan diet for more than six months I felt so depleted and weak, but also scared to re-introduce more whole grains and good fats because at that point I was so disconnected from my body that I didn’t want to be reminded of the food I’d eaten. I had to stay simple and clean defined to the extreme: no spices, salt, garlic, onions, oils, etc. Food wasn’t something to be enjoyed, it was to be consumed quickly, alone, in between activities. I craved the emptiness, the lightness; not the satiation sustained by slowly digesting a good meal cooked with love. The emotional aspect of this relationship to food is enormous, now that I feel more embodied and connected to my physical self I am more interested in fueling myself properly and staying aware of my most basic needs. Now I try to pay attention to the satisfaction I get from eating nutrient dense and filling meals that I didn’t used to let myself eat before. When I crave a lighter satisfaction, or a fuller, comforting satisfaction, I can get out of my head enough to meet my needs better than I could before.

    Thanks, this is stuff to be chewing on…

  7. First thought about seeing ED is why would she be talking about erectile dysfunction. OK, I get it, eating disorder. Had to chuckle though.

  8. I like eating raw all day, It’s easier for me. I tend to load up on my greens during the day and I find that it grounds me and keeps me feeling balanced and happy. I like eating my cooked meals for dinner.
    Love the lasagna pasta. I’ve been eating a lot of zucchini lately and will continue to gorge on it until I can’t get it at the farmers market anymore.

  9. Great minds think alike. I was just going through all my photos from when I studied at 105degrees and my lasagna photos prompted me to head to market and buy the ingredients for a picnic I’m going to tomorrow. But now I’m thinking pasta. Travels much better.

  10. Mmm. That dish looks so good! I know what you mean about feeling better with “light” meals. Sometimes I want the weight and fullness of cooked starches and veggies, but sometimes I just don’t want to feel weighed down and gross, and that’s when I’d have a salad or something like this lasagna pasta.

  11. When I think about it, I’ve been eating mostly raw since college, since my diet has always (since I left home anyway) consisted mostly of fruit and salad. What’s shifted over the years has been the other stuff. Even in my anorexic years, I was always a calorie counter, never a faster – I stayed below a hundred lbs for a decade, but I can count on one hand the number of 24-hour periods I went without any food at all – and they were all due to physical illness. I actually ate 3 x a day even at the height of my illness … I just didn’t eat very much. I could make a dinner of mustard … and I would do that vs. fast.

    Anyway … the way my recovery went is such that the meal that got bigger was dinner. I’ve just never been much of a day time eater, and to this day I can’t work on a full stomach. I eat so much at dinner that it’s mostly not a problem, but if I’m working on a huge project and taking my work home, I will lose weight. Because I don’t want to lose weight, I make an effort to include lots of nutrient dense foods into my diet (protein powder for one – I am a big fan of the VEGA Whole Food Health Optimizer – but also nut milks and nut butters and so-called “decadent spreads”).

    The good thing is that I can not sleep if I’m feeling “empty.” It’s a desirable feeling for me during the day, but one I can’t deal with at night. So even if I’ve missed dinner, I will often end up whipping up some banana soft serve with a couple tablespoons of almond butter or (other high calorie spread) at night. It’s not ideal, but it’s a guarantee that even on my busiest days, I’m getting way more calories than I’d be getting on a juice fast. I love my green juice, but the though of a juice fast HORRIFIES me.

  12. Really interesting post! My struggle with this has to do with IBS. It can be hard to find a balance between heavy meals that irritate my stomach and light meals that don’t leave me satisfied. I think it takes a lot of listening to my body to see if I can handle heavy or light meal or certain foods at the moment.

  13. this looks so good and random fact about me i just found out. i’m allergic to nooch! the last 3x i’ve had nooch, my lips get super itchy, get tiny bumps that feel like i have sand on them and dry out. it takes 2 days for it to pass. who is allergic to yeast?! so cashew cheez it is for me!! i love my dinners to be filling but nto leave me feeling sluggish so i always have something light in the way of greens + something heavier (roasted veg or meat)

  14. For some reason I dislike raw zucchini pasta but like lasagna. Maybe my sauces are all wrong. Or the cut of the noodle makes a difference. Since I do have a mandoline, I should make raw lasagna more. Good reminder. It will be a fun MoFo meal.

  15. Wow, Gena… you really pinpointed exactly my feelings about raw food, which I’d never been able to formulate into a coherent thought. I didn’t realize that the lightness and lack of density were what attracted me to raw food after coming out of an eating disorder. This is something I need to examine more.

    For now, I know that there are certain times of day that I want something dense, warm and grounding, and other times when I want something satiating, but still light and not-so-dense. I can’t say what it will be from day to day, really. I know that my body really likes raw vegetables, though! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Molly!

      I think that one key part of recovery is realism. It’s nonsense to say, “I want to eat like everyone else.” You don’t. If you *do* ultimately eat in ways that are entirely average, that’s great, but if your history is intense enough, you may always battle yearnings for lightness that other eaters just don’t have. Well, fine — why not find constructive and healthful ways to manage those yearnings? That’s where raw foods can help. Yes, you have to be VERY mindful in how you use/approach them, but if they can be a wise and conscious part of your recovery process, that is GREAT.


  16. “Raw foodism becomes yet another slippery slope down which they slide toward starvation. This is why I get so angry when I hear prominent raw foodists extolling the virtues of abstinence, fasting, and emptiness. “–

    That is so well said, Gena!

    Ending up at greens and smoothies, not so fun sounding to me, but I often wonder what some of the raw food bloggers eat b/c that’s all that they seem to show…some version of something raw and green. Clearly not me! I have soups, chilis, and oh yeah chocolate. And desserts and baked goods. Sometimes raw desserts but sometimes not πŸ™‚

    I love the looks of Pure’s lasgna and wish one day that I could partake in it! I have a feeling even fedex’ing a piece of lasagna to CA wouldnt really hold up too well πŸ™‚

    So in the meantime, I love what you did with your meal.

    And I had forgotten about that “goat cheese” of yours! Thanks for the reminder!

    Have a spook-tacular HWeen (corny..yes…I am a mom of a 3.5 yr old..we are spooky over here LOL)

    I hope to see pics of you in your hottie french maid costume with a drink in your hand dancing wildly come Monday. KIDDING!!!! I can’t imagine that actually LOL πŸ™‚

  17. I always thought of raw food having a “lightness,” but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how heavy it can be. There are so many nut-based items and dense foods often in large quantities, and sometimes certain raw vegetables can be tough to digest (for me, raw zucchini is one). I wonder if our bodies are all different in how we deal with certain diets or food combinations, or if there are ways to avoid this and make all meals “light”?

  18. I don’t think I’ve ever had a special “raw” meal (meaning one that uses fancy-amazing raw-trickery that you have mastered so well), but my body reacts to raw meals, like salads, dependent upon the weather. I feel that if I’m warmer, I can get the full feeling from a nutrient dense salad whereas when it’s cold I need something bulky and warm (squash and grains will do it).

    I like the satisfaction of not being hungry after a meal while at the same time not being disgustingly stuffed or feeling like there’s a brick in my stomach. I don’t think I could get caught up in the lightness after a meal sensation anymore; however, I need to work on eating for the moment rather than making myself hungry so that a meal later on will “taste better.”

    This recipe makes me want a mandolin and to gain the patience required to make that goat cheese. πŸ˜‰

  19. That looks delicious and refreshing.
    I can completely agree on a certain level. Sometimes, I feel I need certain foods to truly satisfy. For lunch today, I couldn’t imagine anything but quinoa because it’s so hearty and warm and filling. I could have had the hugest salad imaginable and it wouldn’t have worked the same way.