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The Whole Family

Layered and Luscious: Vegan Lasagna
by Cathe Olson

Lasanga Lasagna is one of the ultimate comfort foods for me. There's something about those layers of noodles, sauce and fillings that is so satisfying. Lasagna can be a bit of work to prepare, but it serves a lot of people and is a great dish to serve to guests. If you have leftover lasagna, cut it into individual serving pieces and freeze them in separate containers. They're easy to heat in the oven or microwave for a quick meal. My daughters love cold leftover lasagna in their lunch boxes.

Traditionally, lasagna is laden with animal products like meat, eggs, and lots and lots of cheese. Thanks to tofu, it's easy to make a ricotta cheese replacement that tastes almost like the real thing. Vegan cheese substitutes can top your lasagna—look for a brand like Vegan Gourmet that melts. I've also found that drizzling a little olive oil over vegan cheeses helps them to melt as well. If you're not a fan of nondairy cheese products, leave the cheese off—or try topping your lasagna with chopped nuts or Sesame Parmesan (recipe below).

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Here are a few different lasagnas. The first is a traditional lasagna made with marinara, tofu ricotta, and topped with vegan cheese. I've included spinach and vegetable variations as well. The second version uses sweet butternut squash in place of the marinara sauce for a whole different lasagna experience. I've added hearty winter greens to make this a nutritional powerhouse of a meal. The third recipe is soy-free. Lima beans are used to make a wonderful sauce in place of the ricotta. Both the butternut and lima versions don't require precooking the noodles either, which is a nice timesaver.

Now that the weather is cooler, warm up your house with good friends and your stomach with good food. Enjoy.

Traditional Lasagna

Lasanga Of course, traditional lasagna isn't vegan but this version is about as close as you can get and a wonderful dish to serve nonvegan guests. This lasagna can be prepared ahead of time and then refrigerated or frozen until you are ready to cook it. Just be sure to bring it to room temperature before baking or you'll end up with a cold center.
  • 12 ounces lasagna noodles (9 to 12 noodles)
  • 2 (16-ounce) packages firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 (25-ounce) jar or 3 cups homemade marinara sauce
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
  • 6 tablespoons vegan parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling water (I like to do 6 at a time) about 8 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain the noodles and spread them out to keep them from sticking together. In a food processor, blender, or a bowl, mix and mash the tofu, parsley, salt, and pepper together until smooth.

Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Place noodles in pan, overlapping them slightly to cover the bottom. Spread a thin layer of sauce of the noodles. Cover the sauce with half of the tofu mixture. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the parmesan over the tofu. Cover the layer of noodles, then sauce, remaining tofu mixture, and 2 more tablespoons of the parmesan. Place another layer of noodles over the tofu and cheese and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese and the mozzarella.

Bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let the lasagna rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing to set.

Makes 9 servings

Variations:

Spinach Lasagna Lasagna

Saute 6 ounces (about 5 cups) fresh spinach in olive oil until wilted. Chop fine. (Or you can thaw a 10-ounce package frozen, chopped spinach.) Drain the liquid from the spinach and add to the ricotta mixture.

Vegetable Lasagna

In olive oil, saute chopped onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant (and/or any other veggies you desire) until tender. Stir them into the marinara sauce.

Butternut Lasagna

Sweet winter squash and lasagna are both favorites of mine. Together, they are even better. If you are using a food processor, chop the nuts first before you make the fillings to save you having to wash and dry between steps. The filling and sauce can be made ahead of time, and you don't need to precook the noodles.
  • 12 ounces lasagna noodles (9 to 12 noodles)
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chopped spinach, kale, chard, or other dark green leafy vegetable
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
Tofu Filling:
  • 1 1/2 pounds firm or silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt Black pepper to taste

Butternut Sauce:
  • 3 cups mashed cooked butternut squash
  • 3/4 cup nondairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Stir in the garlic and greens. If the greens are dry, add a little water. Cover and steam 5 minutes or until soft. Set aside.

Place tofu filling ingredients in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Remove to bowl and set aside. Place Butternut Sauce ingredients in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.

Assemble lasagna as follows: Cover the bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan with thin layer of sauce. Place a single layer of lasagna noodles in bottom of pan. Leave a little space between the noodles because they will expand when cooked. Spread 1/2 of the tofu filling over noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 of the cooked greens over tofu. Spread 1/3 of the butternut sauce over the greens. Repeat for one more layer. Place noodle layer on top and cover with butternut sauce. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over squash. Pour boiling water in corners and around edges of lasagna. Cover pan with foil and bake for 35 minute. Remove cover and bake 10 minutes. Let the lasagna rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing to set.

Makes 9 servings

Note: To save time, you can buy frozen pureed squash. Many markets also carry fresh or frozen peeled and cut squash that can be quickly steamed.

Lima-Vegetable Lasagna

This delicious dish is made without dairy or soy products. You don't need to precook the noodles either. Although there are several steps involved, they don't all need to be done at the same time. The lima beans can be made the day before or in the morning (or you can use canned beans). The Sesame Parmesan can be made ahead of time as well. Then, at dinnertime, you'll just need to assemble and bake.
  • 12 ounces lasagna noodles (9 to 12 noodles)
  • 3 to 4 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1 batch (1/2 cup) Sesame Parmesan (recipe follows)
  • Lima Bean "Cheese" Sauce:
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked dried lima beans
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons bean cooking water
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Make Lima Bean "Cheese" Sauce as follows: Mash sauce ingredients together using a potato masher or in a food processor, using just enough liquid to get a smooth mixture. Make Sesame Parmesan as follows: Coarsely grind ingredients together in a blender or coffee grinder.

To assemble lasagna, cover the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan with thin layer of marinara sauce. Place a single layer of lasagna noodles in the bottom of pan. Leave a little space between noodles because they will expand when cooked. Spread 1/3 of the "Cheese" Sauce over noodles. Arrange zucchini slices evenly over sauce. Cover with 1/3 of the remaining marinara sauce. Place a layer of noodles over sauce. Cover with a layer of "Cheese" Sauce, then spread the spinach in an even layer. Cover with marinara. Repeat with "Cheese" Sauce, zucchini, and marinara. Press noodles down gently to make sure they are covered with liquid. Sprinkle Sesame Parmesan evenly over the top.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Let the lasagna rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing to set.

Serves 9

Sesame Parmesan
This is a delicious vegan substitute for Parmesan cheese.
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Coarsely grind ingredients together in blender or coffee grinder.

Makes about 1/2 cup

Cathe Olson is the author of the new nondairy ice cream cookbook: Lick It! Cream Dreamy Vegan Ice Cream Your Mouth Will Love, as well as Simply Natural Baby Food and The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook. Visit Cathe's website at www.simplynaturalbooks.com and her blog at http://catheolson.blogspot.com.
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