Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Classic Lasagna

Words cannot describe how incredible this lasagna is.  If you’re thinking vegan might be too tough or not filling enough, this dish will more than satisfy even the most hardcore meat lover.  The tofu cashew ricotta is inspired by Vegan Artisan Cheese and is absolutely like the “real”thing.  When I first became vegan after having been vegetarian since I was 9 years old, cheese was the hardest to give up.  We have receptor sites in our brain that respond to the casein in dairy, the same sites also respond to morphine!  Yep, that’s right, cheese is as addictive as morphine!  No wonder this “dairy crack” is such a pleasure trigger when we eat it, even though we know it is loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat.  Kicking the habit was hard, very, very hard.  When I went vegan 5 years ago, the vegan cheese options and recipes were extemely limited.  This lasagna would have saved me many a night of crazy cheese cravings.  I hope this lasagna warms your heart and fills you with fond memories of eating the not-so-vegan version around the dinner table as a kid.  Enjoy!

Classic Lasagna
8 sheets lasagna pasta
1 jar organic tomato sauce
1/4 cup zucchini, sliced to bite-sized half moons
4 cups spinach
1/2  medium onion, sliced
1/4 cup green bell pepper, seeded and sliced to bite-sized
1/2 cup broccoli florets, chopped to bite-sized
1 carrot, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Tofu Cashew Ricotta Ingredients:
1 package organic firm or medium firm tofu, pressed
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
good squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
Parmesan Topping:
1/4 cup raw cashew, grated to look like parmesan

lasagna ingredients
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Bring a stock pot of water to boil.  In the meantime, take the pressed (to press tofu, wrap in kitchen towels and press the water out by covering with a heavy book, or object for about ten minutes to remove the water) tofu and crumble it into a bowl.  Crumble well.
2.  Into a blender, add the cashews and water and blend.  Then add the garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and blend until smooth.  Add cashew puree to tofu and mix together so that it resembles ricotta.
3.  Once the water is to boil, drop in four sheets of lasagna at a time.  Cook according to package, usually about 6 minutes until slightly al dente. Set aside to cool before handling.
4.  In a medium sized sauté pan, add the onion, broccoli, zucchini, carrot and bell pepper over medium heat.  (I’ve not added oil to reduce fat content.  The vegetables will release their own juices while cooking and shouldn’t stick.  However, if you want to add oil, a tablespoon of olive oil should do the trick).  Sauté for about 5 minutes then add the spinach.  Stir in the spinach and cook until lightly wilted.  Remove from heat and set aside.  The vegetables will continue their cooking process in the oven.
lasagna veggies
5.  Into a baking dish, spoon about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce onto the bottom of the pan.  Then add your fist layer of lasagna noodles.  After the noodles go down, spoon the tofu cashew ricotta in a thin layer.  Next add the veggies as the next layer.

lasagna layer 1lasagna layer 2lasagna layer 3

6.  On top of the veggies, add more tomato sauce. Next, lay down another layer of 4 lasagna sheets.  On top of that, another layer of tomato sauce.  Make sure to take the sauce to the edges to prevent the lasagna from sticking to the pan while it bakes.  Place the lasagna uncovered into the oven for 30 minutes.
7.  After the lasagna has cooked for 30 minutes, pull it out.  Add the cashew parmesan to the top.  Pop it back in the oven to brown.  This should be about 7 to 10 minutes more.  Then remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.  It will look something like this…
finished lasagna

If you want a little kick, (yes, I love everything spicy) add a nice shake or two of cayenne on top!!  The plated lasagna is pictured with a quick side salad of kale.  Massage kale with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper for a quick side.
I hope you enjoy making this dish!  Please let me know how it works out for you, comments are always welcome Smile

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