(Vegan) Lasagna with Tofu “Garden Ricotta”

11 Mar

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Spring is around the corner, it is almost, almost here, but I still feel the slam of the cold on my face and hands every time I walk outside.

This lasagna is a transition from heavy, cheesy winter comforts to lighter, colorful spring fare. By using a tofu “ricotta” instead of actual ricotta, this pasta dish gets a lighter makeover so that we won’t have to undo the top button on our pants after eating.

I used to make tofu “ricotta” back when I was cooking for 60 students in the Berkeley co-ops. Pulse some firm tofu in a blender or food processor, add some aromatics and spices, and it turns from rubbery soy product to magical cheese-like goodness in seconds! I really like the addition of white miso paste to this version.

…and because I am flexible, I added a little grated Parmesan cheese to top off my vegan lasagna. Hey, it’s a transition, remember? A little Parmesan offers a nice salty punch without weighing down the pasta, but if you are vegan, just omit.

I also love my carbs, so a little toast with olive oil and salt is a nice crunch contrast to the lasagna.

Now, bring on the warm sunshine!

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I love lasagna, and I believe there should be a lasagna for every occasion. Check out this summer version with zucchini here. And check out this Passover matzo lasagna here.

Vegan Lasagna

adapted from Chloe’s Kitchen

Serves 6-8

**Make ahead: you can prepare the unbaked lasagna and keep it in the fridge for about 2 days before baking. 

Garden Ricotta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic

1 14-oz package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon white miso paste

3 cups fresh basil

Sauce & Assembly

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 24-oz jar marinara sauce

1/4 milk of your choice *I used cow’s milk, but to keep things truly vegan use soy, almond, or rice milk

1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (you can also use spinach or another green)

1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You will need a 9 x 13 inch-pan.

To make the Garden Ricotta: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute onions until soft. Add garlic and cook one more minute. Remove from heat.

In the food processor, combine onions, garlic, tofu, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and miso paste. Pulse until the mixture is almost smooth but still has some texture. Add basil and pulse a few more times to incorporate it.

To make the sauce: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet (just use the same skillet you used to saute the onions). Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add marinara and milk. The milk should soften the acidity of the tomatoes (you can also add a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup here, but I just omitted it).

To assemble and bake the lasagna: Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles across the pan. Spread half of the Garden Ricotta over the noodles. Layer half of the kale over the Garden Ricotta. Arrange 4 more noodles on top. Spread another layer of sauce over the noodles, then arrange 4 more noodles on top. Top with another layer of sauce, the remaining Garden Ricotta, and the remaining kale.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked and the sauce is hot and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Optional: If you are not vegan, I enjoyed the lasagna with a little grated Parmesan on top before serving.

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