Lasagna is a familiar comfort food. It can be enjoyed throughout the course of the week or be a great family meal. This plant-based version incorporates a hearty tomato sauce with mushrooms, roasted vegetables, and a “ricotta-style” tofu and cashew filling.
Before You Get Started
Preparing the lasagna consists of three main parts: tomato sauce, tofu and cashew “ricotta-style” filling, and roasted vegetables.
2 cans (28 oz) whole, peeled tomatoes, gently pulsed in food processor or blender
10 each shiitake mushrooms, fine chop_
10 each cremini mushrooms, fine chop
1/2 each onion, small dice
2 each garlic clove, minced
1 cup red wine
Spices (cumin, garam marsala, paprika)
2 blocks firm tofu
1 cup finely chopped cashews
1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast
Salt, pepper, seasonings, lemon juice (to taste)
4 stalks Brocolli
2 each Zucchini
1 box lasagna sheets
6 each Roma Tomatoes (for topping)
9” x 13” baking pan (12 individual pieces)
- Baking pan
- Sheet trays
- Large saucepan
- Blender or food processor
- Large mixing bowl
- Containers for holding ingredients and prepared components
- Cutting board and knife
Tips for Staying Organized
There are three key components to assembling a lasagna in a 9” x 13” baking pan.
This preparation includes knife work making small cuts of mushrooms, onions, and garlic.
The primary cooking method is sauté. The pan will be hot so the food will cook quickly at first and gradually slow down as ingredients are added.
Be fully prepared by having all the ingredients ready to go
Tofu and Cashew Filling
This preparation uses cold food entirely. It is something that can be worked on in tandem with the other components, or it can be done at some point that is most convenient.
Use a hot oven to roast the vegetables. The knife work can be rough cuts. Focus on having uniformity in size for consistent cook times.
Use sheet trays or a shallow roasting pan. Season generously. Once the vegetables are cooked and cool enough to handle, cut into smaller pieces if desired.
Organize your work across the three components. Multi-task as you feel comfortable.
Suggested Order of Operations:
- Set oven to 450 F for roasting vegetables.
- Organize all ingredients for tomato sauce.
- Cut and season vegetables for roasting. Arrange on sheet tray(s).
- Make tomato sauce start to finish.
- Roast vegetables.
- Organize components for lasagna assembly if baking immediately. (Cool all ingredients thoroughly before assembly when storing for later consumption).
- Bake the lasagna at 375 F for 45 minutes covered and for 15-20 minutes uncovered. Rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving.
A Note About Lasagna Sheets
Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes. If using traditional, dry lasagna sheets, cook these in boiling, salted water to the specifications on the package. Cool pasta immediately in an ice bath.
“No Boil” lasagna sheets allow for skipping this process. The convenience is helpful because it reduces preparation time considerably. When using products like these, make sure to make and use plenty of sauce. “No boil” pasta will absorb moisture more readily than traditional lasagna sheets.
A Note About Vegetables and Food Waste
Roasted vegetables freeze well and lasagna is a great way to utilize previously frozen roasted vegetables.
Before throwing leftovers away, ask yourself if they could be enjoyed in some other application and consider freezing for later use.
Making Each Component
The shiitake and cremini mushrooms need to have a fine chop. De-stem shiitake mushrooms. Cut each one into thin into strips, grouping it with your non-cutting hand, turning 90-degrees, and slicing it in the other direction.
For cremini mushrooms. Cut them in half, length-wise. Slice each half then pass your knife through the mushrooms chopping them finely.
In a large, hot saucepan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and the mushrooms first. The pan should be hot so that the mushrooms can brown and develop flavor. There is a lot of moisture content in mushrooms, so if the pan is not hot, they will just steam and become soggy.
Once the mushrooms begin to brown, add onions, salt and pepper, and any spices you may be using. Cumin and garam marsala help to create an earthy depth of flavor. Traditional seasonings like Italian seasoning and paprika are also appropriate. Fresh herbs such as parsley, oregano, or marjoram can also be used. It really all depends on which ingredients are available to you and are ones that you prefer. There are no hard and fast rules.
Add the garlic, and continue to season with salt and pepper. Once the onions are translucent to slightly caramelized and garlic has sweated away some of its more pungent, raw characteristics, deglaze the pan with red wine and reduce.
Once the wine is reduced by at least half, add the tomatoes. Bring everything back up to a simmer, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. At this point, the tomato sauce is more or less complete. Transfer from the saucepan to a more convenient container for assembly. Clean the sauce pan used for making the sauce, and put it away.
“Ricotta Style” Tofu-Cashew Filling
Ricotta cheese is a significant ingredient in traditional lasagna. Tofu makes for a great substitute and is remarkably similar in terms of its texture. The cashews and nutritional yeast are what help to create the familiar cheese-like flavor.
To begin, start by removing as much moisture from the tofu as possible. While you can use a tofu press to do this. A clean, soft towel wrapped around the block of tofu works as well. Be sure to gently squeeze out the water. Ultimately, the tofu will be crumbled and mixed thoroughly with other ingredients. Therefore, maintaining its shape is not a concern.
Crumble the tofu with your hands into a mixing bowl. Then, add finely chopped cashews, which can just be pulsed in a food processor or blender instead of using a knife by hand. You can also try toasting the cashews to provide a nuttier, roasted flavor to the filling. Next, add nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and any other desired seasonings. Dried herbs will taste great here. Mix all the ingredients well using a spoon or spatula. Taste for flavor. You may want to squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice into the mix if you have some available.
The ingredient list suggests using zucchini and broccoli. Eggplant and bell peppers will do great here too. The important thing is roasting the vegetables well in a hot oven.
Prepare the vegetables, first by cutting them into uniform sizes so that they cook evenly. In a mixing bowl, season the vegetables with salt, pepper, and any other preferred seasonings. Use a minimal amount of cooking oil (1 tablespoon). Arrange the vegetables on a sheet tray, lined with parchment paper, place the vegetables on top and roast until they are soft keeping in mind that they will continue to cook in the lasagna later. Be mindful when roasting green vegetables such as broccoli. There is a risk of turning them to a less desirable “Camo-green” color if roasted too long in the oven.
Once roasted and cooled. Slice, cut, or chop the vegetables to a desirable size that will allow for easy consumption of the finished lasagna.
Assembly: Putting It All Together
At this point, you have prepared a delicious tomato sauce, created a tofu ricotta-style filling, and have an assortment of roasted vegetables cut no larger than bite-sized. Now, it is time to assemble the lasagna.
First things first. Use lots of sauce.
The pasta will absorb quite a bit of moisture when baking. Place a healthy layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan, spreading it evenly.
Layer it up.
Next, add the first layer of pasta sheets followed by a layer of the tofu filling. Roasted vegetables follow the layer of tofu-cashew filling. Finally, add more tomato sauce before beginning with the next layer of pasta sheets, tofu filling, vegetables, and sauce. Continue in this manner until you reach the top of the pan.
The final layer. How to finish your lasagna.
Often, we think of lasagna smothered in melted mozzarella cheese. A plant-based version, may use dairy-free cheeses instead which offer a familiar texture and flavor. However, there are other ways to present a plant-based lasagna.
An experiment to try might be to thinly slice Roma tomatoes and shingle them in layers on top of the lasagna.
Bake the covered lasagna in an oven for 45 minutes at 375 F. Remove the foil covering to brown/melt your topping for another 15-20 minutes. Remove the lasagna from the oven, and let it rest for at least another 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving.