Lasagna!! Oil-Free, Vegan, Spinach and Mushroom with Tofu Ricotta
I am on an Italian kick! This is a fantastic dish to make for a big family dinner or for a dinner party or just for yourself when you want leftovers! Lasagna is such a great comfort food and I think this recipe will make everyone happy, even when you are feeding meat and cheese-eaters. The tofu ricotta just tastes rich and delicious and the marina is amazing. Eating this dish, I never thought of it being vegan, I just thought os it as really great lasagna!
One of the great benefits of making this lasagna is that you are packing in a lot of nutrients in what is usually considered fattening comfort food! You have Greens (spinach), Beans (tofu), Onions–lots of onions,and garlic, and Mushrooms, which is most of the nutritional formula “G-BOMB.” ( see my post on caloric density/nutritional density here http://table-karma.com/eat-lose-weight-caloric-density/). Plus, there is a ton of fresh basil, and a lot of carrots to boot. And–there is no added oil at all. Add some berries for dessert or in a salad and you’ve covered your daily nutritional bases with one meal!
I was searching the internet for something else when I stumbled upon a great youtube video by Jill McKeever making lasagna that she said was based on a recipe by Plant Pure Nation. So, this recipe s perhaps a third generation adaptation from a source I didn’t even know–but will check out!. I a an old hand at lasagne–have made meat lasagnas, and vegetarian (with cheese) spinach lasagna for many, many years, since the 70’s! Because I am now following a plan-based diet, I wanted to try this recipe, but needed to change it based on the ingredients I had, and also to eliminate any processed sweeteners such as agave(I used dates–but in retrospect, I would skip the dates or any sweetener–the carrots are sweet enough), I also wanted to use whole grains, and used whole wheat pasta, and made a few other tweaks. For example,I did knothole any tomato paste, so I just used the crushed canned tomatoes and aa pureed fresh tomato. I would have liked the lasagna to be a little “saucier” than it was, so some additional tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes would have worked better for me. I also would prefer a less sweet sauce, and might even add some bitter olives net time. But, this is really delicious and there will be a next time and some variations, too.
This lasagna takes a bit of time and effort because you need to make the marinara, the ricotta, and the spinach filling, and then assemble and bake. It is a great dish for a day when you have time and want to cook.If you want to cut down on the preparation time, you could make the marinara and the ricotta a day or so before you plan ton assemble the dish. Of course, you could also use commercially prepared marinara. I hear Muir Glen has an oil-free marinara in a jar, but I haven’t tried it yet. It would also be a great make-ahead dish that you could prepare a day or so ahead and bake at the last minute.
So.I gathered up as many ingredients as I had, and tried to figure out how to make this lasagna!
Here is how I made it. First, I started on the marinara so it would have some time to simmer and develop its flavors.
I chopped up a very large onion, about 6 cloves of garlic and 4 large carrots, and “sautéed” them in a small amount of vegetable broth for about 10 minutes., until softened a little. Then I added a large can of crushed tomatoes, spices (oregano, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and a dash of cinnamon), and a blended mixture of 2 pitted dates and one chopped fresh tomato, a bunch of fresh basil, chopped, and about 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth. The recipe called for red wine. I didn’t have any, so I used some balsamic vinegar. If I had red wine next time, I would use that. I let this simmer for about 30 minutes, while I made the spinach filling.
For the spinach filling, I chopped a medium onion, about 2 large cloves of garlic, and a container of cremini mushrooms (I like cremini more than regular button mushrooms–more flavor), sliced, and “sautéed” them in a small amount of vegetable broth until tender, about 5 minutes, and added a container of fresh spinach. I thought I needed more spinach and found a half bag of frozen chopped spinach which I added. I cooked the vegetables until must of the liquid evaporated and then took it off the heat. The I made the tofu “ricotta.”
I changed my inspiration recipe again by doubling the amount of ricotta. I used two 15 ounce containers of extra firm tofu (the original recipe called for 14 ounces–I think I need the double amount.) I blended the ricotta in my trusted Vitamix, adding the drained and crumbled tofu, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. The result was delicious. I had some while cooking on a slice of Dave’s whole grain and seed toast with a slice of tomato for the cook’s brunch!
With the marinara cooked, the spinach mushroom mixture made , and the ricotta blended, it was time to layer up the lasagna. I had dried Bionature whole wheat lasagna noodles for the pasta element.
I took a 9 x 13 glass pyrex baking dish and spread a ladle-full of the marinara in the bottom.Next came a layer of the dried noodles. Yes–dried–no need to par-boil the pasta!! On top of the pasta, I put several dollops of the ricotta, and then part of the spinach.
Then more sauce, noodles, ricotta, and spinach, etc., ending up with sauce.
This pan gets covered with foil or a metal baking sheet and goes into a 375 degree oven for one hour.
The result was heavenly! I had the lasagna for a late lunch and warmed up another slice for dinner. I froze several slices individually wrapped in parchment paper and then bagged in plastic. I’m looking forward to enjoying the leftovers when I return from my next east coast trip net week!