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Lactose-free lasagna is an Italian pasta dish that is made without any dairy products. Traditional lasagna is a made with at least two types of cheese. Cheese is made directly from milk, which contains lactose, a complex sugar compound. Many people are allergic to this compound, a condition known as lactose intolerance. Lactose-free lasagna is the only way that people with this affliction are able to enjoy the dish.
There are various ways of preparing dairy-free lasagna, but all take a bit of effort. Cheese is a staple ingredient, which means that simply eliminating it is not usually an option. Cooks can look for non-dairy imitation cheese, which is not actually cheese at all, or they can elect to use totally different ingredients that mimic the absent cheese’s texture. Tofu, a soy product, and boiled squash are common substitutions.
Lasagna is a baked dish that is made up of alternating layers of flat, wide noodles; sauce, typically marinara or otherwise tomato-based; and cheese. Ricotta and mozzarella are the most common varieties, but blends are also popular as a means of adding flavor. Ground beef or chicken is usually also incorporated. Lactose-free lasagna usually tries to keep the same layered look of traditional lasagna, but the flavor is often very different.
Cheese imitations are usually available from vegan grocers. Vegan cooks eschew animal products in any form, which means that no vegan-certified food will contain lactose. Lactose exists only in milk and milk-based products.
Vegan "cheese" is usually made of soy or other natural bases. It often looks like cheese and tastes a bit like cheese, too. Most of it melts very differently, however, which makes baking more complicated. Cooks normally have to keep an eye on this kind of lactose-free lasagna to ensure that the ingredients are actually baking and cooking together properly.
It is important to distinguish a vegan lasagna from one prepared for a lactose-free diet. Usually, lactose-free products are only milk-free: they often contain other animal-derived ingredients like egg. Eggs appear in many lasagna preparations, and are also prominent ingredients in most noodles. People who avoid animal products in their diets should look into all ingredients of lactose-free foods before deciding whether to partake.
Lactose-free meals may also depend on outright substitutions rather than imitations. Cooks looking to replace moist ricotta cheese often turn to blended tofu or pureed vegetables such as winter squash or eggplant. Seasoned olive oil is often used to replace moisture lost from mozzarella cheese. A lactose-free lasagna made with these ingredients is bound to look and taste really different from the original, but can come in many pleasing — as well as healthful — variations.
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