“Cheezy” Vegan Veggie Lasagna

//“Cheezy” Vegan Veggie Lasagna

“Cheezy” Vegan Veggie Lasagna

For my son’s recent birthday party, we were having friends and family over for dinner, and I wanted to prepare a dish that I could make ahead of time, in a large quantity, and that would appeal to everyone. What would fit that role better than a homemade lasagna?!

I didn’t want to make just any lasagna! I wanted to create one that was healthy, veggie-filled, and plant-based, but that still had the rich ricotta filling and gooey cheesy topping that makes everyone feel like they’re indulging in a guilty treat.

For the ricotta filling, I decided to use one of my favorite tofu ricotta recipes from Oh She Glows. This one is filled with so much flavor that comes from sauteed garlic, onion, and celery, fresh basil and parsley, and nutritional yeast to add that perfect umami cheese experience.

For veggies, I filled my lasagna layers with sauteed, seasoned, and finely diced zucchini and mushrooms, as well as wilted baby spinach with garlic. This was all topped with a chunky marinara that provided a nice balance between the rich ricotta and light veggies. My lasagna noodles were made of brown rice which provided a high-fiber, nutritional punch.

Finally, I wanted to keep this lasagna as whole-food, plant-based as possible, and really was hoping to avoid topping it with processed vegan cheese. I came across what looked like a great vegan mozzarella recipe on the Nora Cooks blog. She bragged of the cheese being stretchy and gooey, and even forming brown bubbles when broiled. The recipe did not disappoint when it came to texture, although I had to make a few modifications to enhance the flavor.

In the end, this lasagna got rave reviews from omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike. I brought some leftovers to work the following day where it was thoroughly enjoyed by meat and cheese-focused, vegetable-avoiding coworkers. I must admit, it warmed my heart to see just how much they enjoyed this vegetable-packed vegan decadence.

Ingredients:

Tofu Ricotta (modified from Oh She Glows Jumbo Stuffed Shells recipe)

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (optional for sauteing; can also saute in veggie broth or water)
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/4-1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, minced (I used 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons-1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (I used 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 14-oz. package extra-firm or firm tofu, pressed (can cut block in half lengthwise, wrap each piece in a towel, and place a heavy object (large pot filled with water, heavy cutting board, etc.) for 20-30 minutes)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • ground black pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Lasagna

  • 1 box lasagna noodles (I used brown rice noodles)
  • 1-2 medium zucchinis , finely diced
  • 1 12-oz package mushrooms, diced
  • 8 oz of baby spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (I like brands that have no added sugar and minimize added salt and oil. Look for only 3-4 ingredients to be listed)
  • salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
  • olive oil for sauteing (optional)

Vegan Mozzarella (modified from Nora Cooks Easy Stretchy Vegan Mozzarella). Prepare this just after placing lasagna in the oven so it is warm, gooey, and easy to spread on top

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water for 20-30 minutes, then drained
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons tapioca starch (this can be found in most Asian grocery stores, a specialty grocery store such as Whole Foods, or purchased online)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (to add cheesy flavor)

Directions:

Tofu Ricotta

  • In a large skillet, saute garlic and onion in oil (or broth/water) for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper
  • Add in celery basil, and parsley, and saute for another 5 minutes
  • Blend tofu in high speed blender or food processor until creamy. You can omit this step and crumble tofu with your hands, although the final mixture will be more chunky, and less creamy like ricotta
  • Add nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, lemon, and crushed red pepper to blender and pulse to mix (if tofu was crumbled by hand, just mix these ingredients in in a separate bowl). Adjust seasonings to taste
  • Stir tofu mixture into skillet and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, and allowing any moisture/water to cook off

Lasagna

  • Boil lasagna noodles until al dente (cook 2-3 minutes less than time noted on instructions). For brown rice noodles, this was about 11 minutes. Drain water and lay noodles flat on parchment paper
  • In a large skillet, saute zucchini until soft/browned (5-10 minutes). In the same pan, saute mushrooms until soft. Both can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Keep mushrooms and zucchini in separate bowls after cooking
  • Turn off stove heat. Dump spinach and minced garlic into warm pan and mix until wilted (1-2 minutes). Season to taste, and place in separate bowl

Vegan Mozzarella

  • Add soaked/drained cashews to a high speed blender with water, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, tapioca starch, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast
  • Blend until smooth. Mixture will be watery
  • Pour mixture into a small saucepan and bring heat to medium
  • Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Mixture will become clumpy after a few minutes
  • Continue to stir constantly until mixture becomes thick and gooey. Remove from heat

Assemble Lasagna

  • In a 9×13 pyrex dish or lasagna pan, layer the bottom with marinara
  • Top with a layer of noodles (I had to cut mine to size as I used two smaller, square pans)
  • Top this with ricotta, followed by 1/2 of mushrooms, zucchini, and spinach, then a layer of sauce
  • Repeat with noodles, ricotta, veggies, and sauce
  • Top with a final layer of noodles and spread sauce on top
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, covered with foil
  • Remove from oven, and spread vegan mozzarella on top to cover. Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes, then broil for an additional 5 minutes until cheese is slightly brown and bubble (see picture)
Delicious layers of noodles, tofu ricotta, and vegetables…
…topped with marinara
…and vegan mozzarella after broiling
2019-09-28T02:26:26+00:00