Growing up with three siblings, my favorite meals were the ones I was allowed to eat as much of as I wanted because we weren’t going to run out. Mac and Cheese was a stand-by.
We would get in trouble if we wasted any and, having a bottomless stomach, the duty of finishing off the second or third box usually came to me.
Another favorite was lasagna. I’m realizing now that this connection may have just as much to do with the combo of pasta and cheese as it does with being allowed to eat a large quantity of food.
Well I haven’t eaten “real” cheese in the last three and a half years, so that means I haven’t had lasagna for about three and a half years—a tragedy.
A few weeks ago, however, I changed my fate! I noticed vegan ricotta at a certain health food store and was immediately inspired to make lasagna with it. My hopes were crushed by the price tag, so I decided to look at the ingredients and do a little searching online.
Here’s where this recipe turns a bit weird. Now, I hate raw tofu as much as the next person but apparently I love lasagna more.
(Side note: my housemate who studied abroad in Italy has let me know that the lasagna she had in Bologna did not have ricotta in it. However, the lasagna of my childhood was from the freezer section of a grocery store called Blair’s and not from Bologna, sorry Italy.)
I was extremely weary of tofu ricotta but I had faith in my ability to make things taste good so I went for it and I was pleased with the results.
The first thing you do is drain and squeeze the excess water out of a block of medium firm tofu. Most of the recipes I read said to go for firm, but I didn’t want the chunks to be that solid and I think I made the right choice.
Make sure you get most of the water out of there or else you are going to have sauce instead of cheese. Then add about a teaspoon of garlic powder, a splash of extra virgin olive oil, half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of ground black pepper and, most importantly, a few teaspoons of fresh lemon juice.
This whole process relies heavily on tasting it to see what you like. I also added about a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and a teaspoon or two of oregano.
I also think adding some fresh basil leaves would be delicious but that would obviously make it green, so it’s up to you.
To assemble the lasagna, boil the lasagna noodles following the package instructions then drain and rinse them in cold water.
In whatever size pan you want (although there are usually enough noodles in a box for a 9” by 13” pan), put down a bit of your tomato sauce.
I like straight up bottled marinara sauce but you could make your own or go for some fancy basil, tomato business. Lay down a layer of the noodles.
Next, add a layer of your ricotta using a spoon or rubber spatula to smooth it out. Lay down another layer of noodles and add a few handfuls of spinach and chopped mushrooms (or you could use vegetarian ground “beef” or anything else you want) and more tomato sauce.
Continue layering the noodles and filling, alternating fillings between each layer, until you run out of noodles or room in the pan.
I like to finish off the top with more tomato sauce but you could leave it bare if you want it crispy or add some vegan white sauce (cashews would be good for this, but that’s too fancy for me).
Bake at 375 for around 25 minutes with aluminum foil and 25 minutes without. You just want the whole thing to be bubbly and heated through.
I was really nervous about the ricotta situation but after it came out I was thoroughly impressed.
It didn’t taste exactly like the dairy version but it was darn close and the texture was spot on. I will definitely be making it again.
- ~48 oz of tomato sauce
- ~4 cups fresh spinach
- ~4 cups chopped mushrooms
- 16 oz box lasagna noodles
- 1 block of medium firm tofu
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Splash of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Optional: nutritional yeast, oregano and basil to taste