13 March 2013

Maggie's Vegan Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those dishes that I never ate a lot as a child (like spaghettios), but started craving as an adult. However, since I'd never really made it, I had to do some investigation. In addition, I started thinking about lasagna in the early days of my veganism, when there wasn't nearly the veg*n presence on the web,  nor the relative abundance of veg*n-friendly products in grocery stores. I found some recipes filled with meats and cheeses and figured I'd just change things up a bit while keeping the basic recipes intact.

My first attempts at lasagna failed miserably. Since these attempts were more than 10 years ago, one would think I would have forgotten them by now...no dice. I couldn't figure out the right blend of ingredients, couldn't make the floppy noodles do what I wanted, and the layers never remained as layers. After a few times of feeling like I had the culinary equivalent of two black thumbs, I started asking for input. My mom suggested attempting a lasagna without boiling the noodles, one friend suggested ignoring all veg*n cheeses (which were awful at the time!), and another friend suggested that I just throw things I liked to eat in between noodles and call it lasagna. I took some of all of that to heart, eventually landing on the delicious recipe below.
Look at the beautiful layers. 

I almost forgot to take a picture again!
Maggie's Vegan Lasagna
Ingredients
15 uncooked lasagna noodles
1, 29 oz. can tomato sauce
1, 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 c. water
1 block extra firm tofu
scant 1/2 c. unsweetened soymilk
3 T. nutritional yeast (plus more for the top)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Spices of choice (see Helpful Hints)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1. Combine tomato sauces, water, and your spices of choice in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Mix the cream cheese into the spinach (sometimes heating them slightly in the microwave helps). Set aside.
creamy spinach
3. In a food processor or blender, combine the tofu, soymilk, lemon juice, and a bit of salt, pepper, and onion/garlic powders (a dash each), processing until the mixture is the texture of ricotta cheese.
tofu ricotta
4. In a 9x13 glass baking dish, create layers as follows: 1/3 sauce, 5 noodles, tofu mixture, 5 noodles, 1/3 sauce, spinach mixture, 5 noodles, 1/3 sauce.
Note the overlap of the noodles - this is key.
The 5th noodle goes the other direction on the end and will likely have to be broken a bit
5. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast then cover tightly with foil. 
6. Bake for one hour, then uncover and bake for 20 more minutes. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Helpful Hints
  • The uncooked noodles do NOT have to be "oven ready" lasagna noodles. Regular ones will work just fine. 
  • The spices I used tonight were as follows (and are rough estimates): 1 tsp. minced dried garlic, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1/8 tsp. cayenne, 1/2 tsp. oregano, 1/4 tsp. basil, 2 T. Italian seasoning, a few dashes of black pepper, and a pinch of salt. 
  • Because of the long cooking time, I'd avoid fresh green spices (e.g., basil) for the sauce, though I suppose you could top the lasagna with them. 
  • Unsweetened soymilk is NOT the same thing as plain soymilk. Be careful; I've made that mistake one too many times.
  • We do not regularly use unsweetened soymilk, which means we don't have any in the fridge. Rather than buying the smallest size possible, using a little bit, and then letting the rest go to waste, I use Better Than Milk original powder. I can mix up what I need when I need it, and the rest will just wait patiently for me.
  • This freezes well, although the tofu will change texture a bit. When you microwave it (whether frozen or not), cover it with a damp paper towel to keep the top layer of noodles from drying out completely.

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