Lasagna’s one of those time-consuming dishes that I wish I had time to make more often. While the Italian classic is really not hard to prepare, it does take multiple steps + ingredients = time. It’s one of those perfect, rainy day off recipes, just like I had the other day when I decided to tackle this lasagna.
Creating a vegan version of this layered dish requires the extra step of creating a soy-based ricotta. We all know that cheesy lasagna tastes good, but it’s certainly not ideal in terms of health. Luckily, creating a tasty, vegan filling isn’t too difficult. This ricotta recipe exhibits another way a blank canvas block of tofu can be entirely transformed into creamy deliciousness.
If you’re not making this recipe in the summer, feel free to use jarred sauce (or start freezing sauce now!). Also, you can substitute the fresh herbs for dried. A general rule to follow is 4 parts fresh for every 1 part dried. But take advantage of the late summer/ early fall veggies and herbs now while you still can. This is a great meal for that first chilly, fall day when your tummy (and mood) could use a little warming (and cheering) up.
-4-5 cups fresh tomatoes, peels removed* and chopped
-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
-1 onion, chopped
-2 stalks celery, chopped
-1 carrot, grated
-1 bell pepper, chopped
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp. salt
-1/4 tsp. pepper
-18 large basil leaves, chopped
-1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
Saute onion, celery and carrots for a few minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and saute a few minutes more until veggies are tender. Add salt, pepper and tomatoes and stir to combine. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes to reduce water and thicken sauce. Add basil and oregano during the last ten minutes of cooking. When sauce is thick, blend in food processor or blender to a smooth or slightly chunky consistency.
*Remove skins by placing tomatoes in boiling water for 35 to 45 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon, and then plunge into a bowl of ice water to cool. Skins should slip off tomatoes easily.
-1 lb. firm tofu, drained of water by slicing and pressing between paper towels
-2 – 3 cloves garlic
-2 Tbsp. fresh basil
-1 Tbsp. fresh oregano
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Process all ingredients in food processor until mixture reaches a ricotta like consistency.
-1 Zucchini and/or yellow squash, cut into 1/4” rounds
-1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4” rounds
-8 oz. mushrooms (cremini or white button), sliced
-2 – 3 medium tomatoes sliced 1/4” thick
-1-2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
-2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
-Coarse salt & pepper
-1 package of Daiya mozzarella-styled cheese
Preheat oven to 375 F.
On a large nonstick baking sheet (or sheet lined with parchment paper), drizzle 1/3 of the olive oil and arrange squash slices. Coat slices with the olive oil on both sides, filling up the entire sheet in a single layer. Then, sprinkle with coarse salt & pepper. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and turn slices over. Bake another 6 to 8 minutes until tender but not mushy. Remove from oven, cool, and place in a bowl or plate.
Using the same baking sheet, drizzle 1/3 of the olive oil and arrange the eggplant slices coating them with the olive oil on both sides, filling up the entire sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with coarse salt & pepper. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn slices over and bake another 10 minutes or so, until completely tender. Remove from oven, cool, and place in a bowl or plate.
Using the same baking sheet, drizzle remaining 1/3 of the olive oil and arrange the tomato slices coating them with the olive oil on both sides. Place the thinly sliced garlic on top of the tomatoes in a single layer. Coat mushroom slices in olive oil on the baking sheet and place them alongside the tomatoes. Sprinkle both with coarse salt & pepper. Bake for 15 – 20 minuted. Do not turn tomatoes over). Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and put a few drops of oil into the boiling water. Then, one at a time, place 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles into the boiling water, and cook until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
Assembling the Lasagna:
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a 9 1/2 X 13” baking dish or pan, put a thin layer of the tomato sauce across the bottom of the dish. Place three of the cooked noodles on top of the tomato sauce. Place the squash slices on the noodles to cover the noodles, and then place eggplant slices to cover the squash. Then cover with a layer of tomato sauce (1/3 of what’s left of the sauce), then 3 more noodles. Spread the tofu ricotta on the noodles. Place a layer of squash on the tofu ricotta and then a layer of eggplant (use what you have left and don’t worry if you don’t have tight layers). Then cover with a layer of sauce, and then 3 more noodles. Then cover noodles with the rest of the sauce and arrange mushroom slices on top of the sauce. Then carefully place tomato slices with the sliced garlic on top of the sauce.
Bake lasagna for 35 – 40 minutes until sauce is bubbling. Cover with as much Daiya mozzarella style cheese as desired for the last 5 minutes of cook time, or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.