15 April 2010

Fresh Vegetable Lasagne with Tofu "Ricotta"

In an effort to challenge myself to cook up an actual, savory meal (something I haven't done in awhile), I turned to the vegetable bin in my refrigerator for inspiration.  Pasta was at the back of my mind, but with the highlights of the veggie bin being a lone carrot and head of broccoli, ideas for satisfying dishes didn't exactly jump out at me.  Pasta salad wasn't going to cut it; I wanted to make something including pasta, but that would require me to spend more time in the kitchen and produce something substantial enough for lunch.  And somehow, out of the blue, I came up with lasagne--one that, aside from the dried noodles, is made entirely from scratch.  I hadn't made lasagne in quite some time, and an impromtu, homemade version sounded like a nice change.  I had the necessary ingredients on hand (including a package of Teese vegan "cheese" I hadn't even touched since buying), the morning free, and the motivation to get cooking.  So I thought, Why not?
What resulted from my lasagne project was a hearty, layered pasta dish that included some fresh veggies, tofu, whole wheat noodles, and a tangy-sweet homemade tomato sauce.  The tofu "ricotta" was very similar to dairy ricotta, taste-wise and texturally, providing good contrast to the chunky, slightly spicy vegetable filling.  Here's how I did it, and how you can do it, too.

Fresh Vegetable Lasagne with Tofu "Ricotta" (printable recipe)
Yields 10 to 12 servings

12 standard-sized, dried whole wheat lasagne noodles (not the short, "no-boil" type), or preferred type
Tomato Sauce (recipe provided below), or 1 jar of prepared tomato sauce of choice
Tofu "Ricotta" (recipe provided below)
Vegetable filling (recipe provided below)
1 c vegan mozzarella-style "cheese," such as Teese, shredded (optional)

Tomato Sauce:
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
1 T tomato paste
2 14-oz cans (or 1 28-oz can) crushed tomatoes
2 T fresh basil, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 T carrot juice, or 1/2 T agave nectar, or other sweetener of choice (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large nonstick pot over medium-low flame.  Add 1 T fresh water, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft; add more water if the mixture begins to stick to the pot (alternatively, just use a small amount of oil).  Stir in tomato paste, then add the crushed tomatoes, basil, and bay leaf.  Stir to combine, then turn the heat down to low flame so that the sauce simmers lightly.  Taste for salt and pepper, and if desired, add carrot juice or sweetener (this balances out the acidity of the tomato).  Simmer on low, partially covered, for 1 hour, stiring occassionally and cooking until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Tofu "Ricotta":
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 T fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 lb firm tofu (not silken), drained
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Nondairy milk as needed, or water
Salt to taste

Add the garlic, basil, and thyme to a food processor or blender, and pulse to finely chop.  Crumble in the tofu and add the lemon juice, then process everything into a thick, creamy paste, adding nondairy milk or water, 1/2 T at a time, if necessary.  Taste for salt; it should be mild but not bland.  Set aside and prepare the noodles and vegetable filling.
For the noodles:
Bring a large pot of water to boil, then add a generous amount of salt.  Add the dried noodles and cook until al dente (mostly cooked, with some bite), according to package directions.  Drain the noodles and set aside, making sure they don't stick to each other.

Vegetable filling:
1/2 one large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium to large head of broccoli, florets only (approximately 3 to 4 cups), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 c blanched spinach, chopped and squeezed of as much liquid as possible
Salt and pepper to taste
Sriracha, or hot sauce of choice, to taste (optional)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low flame.  Add 1 T fresh water, onion, garlic, and carrot, stirring occasionally and cooking until the onion is soft; add more water if the mixture begins to stick to the pan (alternatively, just use a small amount of oil).  Add the broccoli and cook until the broccoli is bright green and still firm.  Stir in the spinach.  Add salt, pepper, and sriracha (if using), to taste.
To assemble the lasagne:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  In an 8x11.5x2" baking pan, add just enough tomato sauce to create a thin layer at the bottom.  Cover the sauce with four noodles, overlapping them slightly so that they fit.  Spread half the tofu "ricotta" over the noodles in an even layer.  Top with half of the vegetable filling, spreading it in an even layer.  Cover the vegetables with one-third of the tomato sauce.  Cover with another four noodles, layer again with the remaining "ricotta" and vegetables, and top with another third of the sauce.  Cover with the remaining four noodles, then top with an even layer of the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle the shredded "cheese" evenly over the top, if using.

Place the baking pan over a rimmed baking sheet.  Cover the lasagne gently with a "tent" of foil.  Bake for 30 minutes, covered.  The lasagne should be heated through and bubbling slightly.  Remove the foil, and bake uncovered for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, if using "cheese" (Teese doesn't melt, but will brown lightly).  Cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
I certainly liked how this particular version turned out, and won't mind making it again when time permits.  Of course, this lasagne can be made with a variety of vegetables and sauces, so feel free to alter the ingredients to your whim, and enjoy!

11 comments:

  1. Seriously, this looks AMAZING. I'm emailing this link to my mom- she's been wanting to make a vegan lasagna forever!

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  2. Looks good! I love the broccoli and sriracha additions. Thanks for sharing the idea.

    Alicia

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  3. Thanks so much for the kind words!! :)

    Keri,
    I hope your mom likes the lasagne!

    Alicia,
    You're very welcome. I enjoy developing and sharing recipes and am trying to do so more often.

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  4. That looks great Tiffany!

    And thanks so much for commenting on the controversial post today :)

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  5. I have never dared to make lasagna from scratch (well, actually any type of lasagna). I cooked once some kind of layered casserole (I think it was with pumpkin instead of lasagna noodles, kale and millet) but it far from being a real lasagna.

    I love how the "ricotta tofu" sounds :D
    PS: I never thought about adding cocoa powder to the chili. Does it work? (although I suppose it's a quite stupid question. You wouldn't add it if it didin't :P)

    It's great to know you have an open-minded sister :) My brother doesn't care too much. Actually, I have the feeling that people around me tends to ignore my vegan condition and even avoid the word O.o (I'm still wondering why)

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  6. This looks amazing! Soooo yummy. I love lasagna!

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  7. This looks great! I haven't had lasagna in a while and happen to have some cheezly in the fridge. This looks like an awesome use for it.

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  8. Thanks everyone!

    Ksenia,
    Cocoa powder adds that same kind of depth of flavor to chili you were talking about with the semisweet chocolate, so you should give it a try.

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  9. This looks great! I haven't had lasagna in a while and happen to have some cheezly in the fridge. This looks like an awesome use for it.

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  10. Thanks so much for the kind words!! :)

    Keri,
    I hope your mom likes the lasagne!

    Alicia,
    You're very welcome. I enjoy developing and sharing recipes and am trying to do so more often.

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  11. That looks great Tiffany!

    And thanks so much for commenting on the controversial post today :)

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Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)