Veggie Lasagna with Tofu Cashew Ricotta

Yep, this lightened up, healthy lasagna is vegan but you really won’t miss the cheese, I swear.  I know because I always loved cheesy baked pasta dishes so I if I was going to create a cheeseless lasagna, it had to be good.  I skip using any type of packaged vegan cheese on this because I’m really picky about how I use those and I wanted to preserve the other flavors going on here.  Of course you can always switch up the veggies based on what you like or have on hand.  One important tip, do pick a good quality pasta sauce if you don’t make your own.  I love Rao’s, Marinelli’s, and Paesana sauces.

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Serves 6

Ingredients

Basil Ricotta

¾ cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked in water 3-4 hrs

½ block of firm tofu, drained and pressed

1 cup fresh basil leaves

3 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

¼ cup lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Low-sodium broth for sautéing

2 portobello caps, gills removed, diced

1 small bell pepper, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 heaping cup chopped broccoli

2 cloves garlic, minced

10 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package

2 cups pasta sauce

Method

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Add all the basil ricotta ingredients to a food processor and process until it all comes together.  Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a few  tablespoons of broth, just enough to barely coat bottom of the pan.  You don’t want too much liquid because you want the veggies to brown a bit.  Add portobello, bell pepper, and onion.  Cook 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  Stir in broccoli and garlic and, adding a little more broth as needed. Cook 3-4 minutes longer or until liquid has cooked off.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Assemble lasagna: (note: you will have to trim noodles to fit and you may not use them all).  Coat bottom of a 8 or 9 inch square baking dish with some of the tomato sauce.  Add a layer of lasagna noodles, spread 1/3 of the ricotta on the noodles, top with half the veggies.  Spread 1/3 of remaining sauce on top.  Repeat with another layer of noodles, ricotta, veggies and sauce.  Now top with the last layer of noodles, ricotta and sauce. Cover with foil and bake 35-40 minutes.

 
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Pumpkin Sage Cream Sauce

I’ve used my got-to cashew cream in lieu of heave cream to make a rich, creamy pasta sauce that no one would ever know was dairy-free.  The sage makes this super savory but it can be strong so if you want to lighten up the intensity just simmer a couple whole leaves in the sauce, then remove.  Add in more pumpkin if you you like or even sub with mashed butternut squash.

Makes enough sauce for 2 good-sized portions of pasta

Ingredients

1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked 4-8 hours (go with 8 if you don’t have a high powered blender)

2/3 cup water

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small shallot finely chopped

1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage

1 Tbsp vegan butter

1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Add soaked cashews and 2/3 cup water to a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Should be the consistency of heavy cream and should yield about 1 cup of cashew cream.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add shallot and sage.  Saute a 3-4 minutes.

Stir in vegan butter, then pumpkin and add the cashew cream.  Simmer about 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly.

Add in nutmeg, salt and pepper and serve over pasta.

Southwest Black Bean Burger

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Makes 4 large burgers or 6 small

Ingredients

1/2 small onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp chipotle powder or cayenne (optional)

1/3 cup pepitas

2 tsp vegetable oil

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup cooked brown rice

Salt and pepper to taste

Flour for dusting

Oil or cooking spray

Method

Add onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, chipotle powder, and pepitas to a food processor.  Pulse several times until it all comes together.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse again until it comes together.  Do not over blend or the mixture can become too wet.  Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate 20-30 minutes to chill.  Once chilled it will be easier to handle.

Shape into 4 patties.  Lightly dust both sides of each patty in flour.

Heat lightly oiled skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, add burgers and cook a few minutes on each side until browned and heat through.