I’ve not vegan, in fact, I love a good, traditional, cheesy lasagne from time to time. But I’m not always in the mood for a cheese fest.
Last night I craved the warming, comfort of a layered, baked pasta dish, but I also wanted something wholesome, nourishing and clean. Something that would leave me satisfied, but not overfull. I was also feeling extremely tired and unable to concentrate on real work, so I put my mind to vegan lasagne instead.
There are a hundred different ways you could do this lasagne, but the the key ingredient comes down to the tofu filling that works as a ricotta substitute.
The tofu gets pureed in a food processor, which turns it into a consistency not unlike ricotta. Add a few herbs, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and a good pinch of salt, and I swear you have something good enough to eat with a spoon.
Sure, you could just crumble tofu into the lasagne, and though it would be easier, it wouldn’t be as tasty.
The rest is up to you. Last night I added sauteed mushrooms and grilled zucchini and eggplant. Next time, I’m going all eggplant, for a sort eggplant parmesan effect. Broccoli is also delicious is lasagne.
For the sauce, I use Jeff Varasano’s pizza sauce technique, which is as simple as straining some tinned tomatoes, giving them a quick blend, then adding a pinch of salt, sugar, minced garlic and maybe some dried italian herbs. No cooking. Easy.
To finish the lasagne, I topped mine with toasted, crushed walnuts. But I reckon bread crumbs or pine nuts would also work a treat.
The sauce and vegetables you use in a lasagne are really up to you. Here I use a basic tomato sauce, which I think compliments the spinachy tofu ricotta. My favourite veggie fillings are grilled eggplant or broccoli and carrots. I make this lasagne in a bread loaf tin, which makes a nice TALL lasagne. The tofu ricotta was inspired by a Food.com recipe, and once you try it, you’ll love it so much you’ll start thinking of other uses for it (stuffed shells, manicotti, you get the picture).
For the tofu filling:
- 280g firm tofu (not silken)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice (squeeze of one wedge of lemon)
- salt and pepper
- fresh or dried herbs
- 1 cup cooked spinach, finely chopped (optional)
For the sauce
- 28oz can chopped tomatoes
- salt, pepper, sugar
- oregano or other herbs (optional)
For the lasagne:
- Tofu filling
- Tomato sauce
- Cooked vegetables (sauted mushrooms, grilled eggplant and zucchini, broccoli, carrots, whatever you like!)
- Toasted walnuts, pine nuts or breadcrumbs
Make the tomato sauce: At least an hour before you make the lasagne, empty the tomatoes into a colander and let them strain until the watery tomato juice stops dropping from the colander. Take what remains and give it a few pulses in a blender. Remove to a bowl, and a pinch of salt, sugar, pepper and herbs if you like.
Make the tofu filling: blitz all the ingredients except the spinach in a food processor until the tofu is smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning (it will need a good bit of salt). Mix in the spinach if using with a spoon.
Make the lasagne: Lightly grease a pan or loaf tin. Add a layer of tomato sauce. Then alternate layers of lasagne sheets, tomato sauce, vegetables and tofu filling. Finish with a layer of lasagne sheets, pasta sauce, and a sprinkling of toasted walnuts, pine nuts or bread crumbs (or leave them off but make sure you’re top lasagne sheet is well covered in tomato sauce). Bake at 400F/200C for about 30 minutes, until the lasagne is bubbling and the noodles are cooked.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 substantial servings