There's a few things Garfield got right: we all hate Mondays and we all love a good lasagna.
If you're new to a plant-based diet, pasta can be a bit of a crutch as you explore some creativity. It's relatively healthy (in moderation), tastes great, and it's a vessel for for delicious, nutritious vegetables! Plus, modern pastas made from lentils, chickpeas, and cauliflower are jam packed with nutrients and protein! My favourite lentil and brown rice pasta contains 20grams per serving! Who needs steak when you have lentil pasta!
Any time I try to be a little indulgent and have some pasta, I'm always very conscious to load up on nutrients. Delicious food can still be super healthy. And that's the motivation behind this delicious plant-based lasagna!
One of the challenges I've enjoyed in switching to a plant-based diet is trying to take classic dished that I loved and turn them into healthy, plant-based alternatives. It's easy to rely on meats and cheese to make our food taste good. But, with a little creativity, we can still have a delicious meal that still tastes phenomenal. The proof is in the pudding, or, in this case, the lasagna.
Here's whatcha need:
2/3 package extra firm tofu
3 cups uncooked baby spinach
4 tbs nutritional yeast
1 cup dry red lentils
2 large cans of diced tomatoes
1 medium zucchini
1 large carrot
2 stalks of celery
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 cups frozen cauliflower
1 red or green bell pepper
2 cups of mushrooms (about 8-12)
4 cups of vegetable broth
3/4 cup of water
12-18 sheets of lasagna (this will depend on the size of your noodles)
Seasonings: salt and pepper, oregano, parsley, basil, garlic powder, onion powder
Alright, there's some leeway with this recipe, so find what ingredients work best for you. For noodles, I prefer to avoid any that are made with eggs or have a protein content less than 6 grams per serving. However, it's up to you; just be sure to follow the cooking directions on the box. The last thing you want is a crunchy lasagna! For folks that love extra cheese, you can definitely add cheese to this; or, if you're strictly vegan, you could use a vegan cheese. I try to avoid cheese substitutes, but the Violife mozza cheeze is the best tasting option for a dish like this. If you really want to show off your skills, follow this link to try making your own vegan cheeze.
Here's how to make it!
Finely chop all your veggies, including the cauliflower. Personally, I don't like big chunks of veg in my pasta sauce. In a large pot with some oil/stock/water, begin sweating your mirepoix adding the pepper and zuke after 5-7 minutes, and mushrooms and cauliflower after 10-12 minutes. Add your crushed garlic 3 minutes before adding your sauce.
In a separate pot, bring vegetable broth to a boil and cook lentils until tender. Don't worry too much about overcooking the lentils as they'll break down a bit in the sauce. Red lentils don't hold up to cooking the same way green or french lentils do, but this makes for a richer sauce.
While these guys are cooking, prep the tofu. Slice your tofu thinly and place it on paper towels. Cover with more paper towel and place a heavy pan on top. This will extract any moisture. After 10 minutes, crumble the tofu by hand.
I like to pulse my tomatoes in a blender before adding them to the sauce, but this is up to you. Add the tomatoes to the sauce, along with the water, and lentil-broth mixture. Add the seasonings and simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes. Add additional seasonings to taste. Let the sauce sit and cool for about 20-30 minutes.
In a large oven-friendly casserole dish, spread a thin layer of sauce to keep your noodles from sticking. Add a layer of noodles. Add a hearty layer of sauce to cover the noodles. Add your spinach to cover the sauce and add your crumbled tofu on top of the spinach. Add a layer of noodles then another layer of sauce. On this layer add your nutritional yeast, but don't go overboard; you should sprinkle enough to cover the sauce without making a goopy mess. Add a layer of noodles and another layer of sauce. Top with your favourite mozza or parm or vegan cheeze.
Bake for the recommended time on the noodles instructions. Mine usually hit the oven for 30-45 minutes. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.
This recipe should yield 6 hearty servings plus some leftover sauce. One portion should contain about 400 calories, 22 grams of protein, and lots of healthy vitamins.
I love to make this dish on the weekends when I've got a little more free time. I'll normally serve it with a side salad and maybe some garlic toast. As with any lasagna, it's great the next day and freezes reasonably well. This meal is phenomenal for get-togethers or potlucks when you want to impress your friends with your plant-based prowess in the kitchen!
Eat well. Live well.