This recipe was created by Joni Condos of Opti Cook. Note: OPTIFAST licenses a selection of Opti Cook recipes and does not endorse or hold any further association with Opti Cook or its website content.
Ingredients (serves 6)
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 sticks celery, diced (approx. 1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots, diced (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
- 200g mushrooms, finely chopped (approx. 3 cups)
- 1 tsp dried Thyme
- 1 tsp dried Oregano
- 1 shake or a pinch of chilli powder
- 1 tsp Brandy essence
- 1 cup low salt tomato paste
- 400g tin diced tomatoes, low salt & no added sugar
- 3 cups of stock + 1 more if needed
Cauliflower Bechamel Sauce
- 1/2 medium cauliflower, cut into florets incl core
- 3 cups of stock (I use Massel vegan chicken stock)
- 1 small brown onion, peeled but left whole
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground or grated if fresh
- Cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp olive oil
Italian "Cheese" Mix
- 1 small zucchini, peeled & grated
- 1 small carrot, peeled & grated
- Zest of 1/2 a medium lemon
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 sachet of Miso soup (18g)
- 1/2 tsp paprika (smoked or sweet)
- 1 tsp stock powder (I used Massel vegan chicken stock)
- Makeup all the individual components, then assemble. You can do steps 1-5 at the same time.
- Add a spray of olive oil to a frypan or large saucepan. Add the onion & garlic and cook for approx. 5 mins until nicely browned. Add brandy essence (it will sizzle), celery, carrots, mushrooms, thyme, oregano & chilli powder, stir and cook for another 2 mins.
- Next, add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste & 2 cups of stock. Simmer for about 20-30 mins until cooked, adding the extra cup of stock if needed.
- Blitz briefly so some of the carrots are mashed, thus helping sauce to thicken. This sauce should be pretty thick and not watery.
Cauliflower Béchamel Sauce
- Heat stock in a medium saucepan until boiling. Add cauliflower florets, whole onion, cloves & bay leaves. Put a lid on, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 30 mins until very mushy. Strain & keep 1 cup of the liquid. Remove the onion, cloves & bay leaves. Blitz until it is the consistency of béchamel sauce, adding reserved liquid if you need to. Add grated nutmeg and stir.
- Next, add 1 tsp olive oil and blitz again; this will make it silky smooth & creamy. Add salt n pepper to taste & let cool.
Italian "Cheese" Mix
- In a bowl, added all of the ingredients together. Mix until well combined and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- Trim top and bottom and slice your zucchini lengthways. You may also wish to peel any thick green skin off or blemishes.
- Place on an oven tray in a single layer. Spray with oil spray and bake for approx. 10 mins until starting to go golden and translucent.
- Preheat oven to 200°C if you haven't already.
- Place 1 cup tomato sauce in a 32cm x 19cm casserole dish. Place a layer of the zucchini slices on top. Then a layer of bechamel. Then about 1/2 cup of the "cheese" mix. Then a layer of zucchini. Then a layer of the tomato sauce. Then the final layer of zucchini. Then a final layer of bechamel. Top with the "cheese". Spray with oil.
- Place uncovered in the oven and bake for approx 8-15 mins, until well browned and bubbly on top. All layers are pre-cooked, so this is to gel them together and get a crunchy brown yummy top.
- Let it sit for a few minutes as you prepare a basic Italian salad. Season with salt and black pepper. Carefully cut into pieces and serve.
- Do not underbake as it will be mushy and raw tasting. Better err on the side of dark brown or burnt than raw for this recipe.
- You can make up each component the day before, then assemble & bake last minute too.
- This can be frozen into portions, great for a quick & satisfying meal.
- Also, keeps in the fridge for at least five days.
- You can replace the zucchini with eggplant or any other flat low starch vegetable.