Ok, so I’ll come clean right now: this recipe contains vegan “cheese”. I know I said I wasn’t a huge fan because it’s so processed, very few taste all that good, and they’re hard to come by (depending on where you are) but there’s really no other way that I know of to make a lasagna. For those of you who have found a tasty and authentic replacement to “cheese”, I’m all ears!
Lets put on the soundtrack to Moonstruck, one of my childhood favorites, pour a glass of vegan wine (visit Barnivore for a complete list of vegan wines, beer and other spirits… They even have an iphone app!), and get set!
- However many lasagna noodles fit nicely into whatever pan you’re using. You’ll need enough for 3-4 layers, which usually translates to about 9-12 “regular” sized noodles. And if there are a few left over… well, I’m not ashamed to say I usually snarf those down after swiping them across the empty sauce and “ricotta” bowls
- 2 tetra packs of silken tofu
- 2 cups spinach, steamed (optional but mighty tasty)
- 2.5 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- about 2 cups of tomato sauce
- about 1.5 to 2 cups of shredded “cheese”, depending on whether you sprinkle some in between layers (yum yum) or save it for the top only. I’d recommend Earth Island but I’ve heard that Daiya is to die for. I’m counting down the days until I get my lil’ mitts on some! (Note: I’ve now tried it and the mozarella flavour is the best!)
Get a big pot of salted water boiling, then add your lasagna noodles. I prefer the boil-in-a-pot-first kind over the cook-in-your-lasagna kind because every lasagna I’ve ever had with those cook-in-the-oven kind has been watery, and no one like a watery lasagna. No one. Cook them until they’re JUST al dente (i.e. don’t overcook them!). Drain and set aside. Don’t rinse them. Jeez I’m bossy today.
Combine the tofu, spinach, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt and black pepper in a medium-sized bowl. I use either a fork or a potato masher to break the tofu down. You’re looking for the sort of smooth-but-chunky consistency of ricotta cheese. You can also throw it all into a food processor, but it’s way more fun to dance around the kitchen with a bowl tucked under your arm, whacking and thrusting at the tofu. Well, I think it is anyway. Once that’s combined, set it aside.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Get out your 11×7 pan (or whatever pan you want really – this recipe is pretty adaptable to whatever kitchenware you own, as long as it can go in the oven! In fact, I challenge you to create a circular lasagna in a cake pan. Why not?! Whatever you don’t use for the recipe can be tossed into a tupperware for later use). Start by spooning sauce into the bottom of the pan, so that it’s completely covered. Then carefully lay down the noodles, trying to avoid spaces. Then spoon some of the “ricotta” onto the noodles, spreading it into as even a layer as possible. Make each layer as thick or thin are you like. Head back to the sauce, then noodles, then “ricotta”, then start all over again as long as 1) you have vertical room in the pan and 2) you have the ingredients. Oh, feel free to sprinkle in a lil’ shredded “cheese” over every “ricotta” layer for extra creaminess.
Once you’re out of ingredients or out of room, try to make sure that your last layer isn’t noodles because they’ll get uber crispy and tough to eat once baked. You can usually remedy it by spreading a lil’ sauce over the top to seal in the moisture. Now sprinkle your shredded “cheese”, cover the pan with aluminum foil and toss it into the oven for 30 to 45 minutes. After about half an hour, take the cover off and turn your broiler on – this will melt the “cheese” on top and generally make the lasagna lovely. Just make sure you watch it like a hawk, because it’s a sure-fire way to burn the pants off your lasagna if you’re not careful.
Let it sit for a sec once you rescue it from the oven and voilà, you’re ready to eat!
Variations/additions: either add a layer of grilled or roasted strips of eggplant, zucchini or red pepper lightly brushed with garlic “butter” to the recipe above, or, if you’re carb-conscious, replace the noodles with these veggies.