“Meat” and Spinach Lasagna with Daiya Vegan Cheese

8 Jan

When I was younger, I used to tell myself (and everyone who asked) that if I was on death’s door and could have one last meal, it would be, without question, my mom’s meat lasagna. Growing up, there was nothing she produced out of her kitchen that I loved more, and trust me, there were many things to chose from. When I first had a traditional Italian lasagna, I was baffled. What’s this ricotta cheese? My mom doesn’t use that. Where’s the meat?! And more importantly, why isn’t this being served with a side of white rice?

That’s how my mom’s was different. It had meat, no ricotta, and a lot of Dominican flavor (heavy on the oregano, know what I’m sayin’?). And…we ate everything with rice. When I went vegan, about a year ago, I thought it was all over. I thought for sure I’d be having oatmeal before dying. And not too soon after, I forgot all about mom’s lasagna. While I was in Portland, OR this summer, I made the mistake of having lasagna at a restaurant. It was good. But it wasn’t what I was used to, and flavor-wise, it just didn’t bring me back home, or anywhere for that matter. That’s when I knew that I had to tackle mom’s lasagna when I got home and make it vegan. 

So this is it, my basic lasagna recipe – mom’s lasagna, veganized. I decided I like the traditional “ricotta” cheese idea a lot, and my mom’s version had a lot of mozzarella cheese so, this is my way of making up for that in a much kinder, healthier way. The ricotta recipe is from the 
Fat Free Vegan Kitchen blog. All credit goes to the lovely Susan V. for creating it! My version has less spinach since there is a layer of fresh spinach in the lasagna already. Don’t tell anyone the ricotta is made of tofu and they won’t even know. 

This recipe is very easy to make and very filling. But if you’re feeling ambitious, serve it with a side of white rice.
Food Processor or blender
Non Stick Pan
9 x 12 casserole dish

9 lasagna noodles, uncooked (or if dried, boiled until al dente)
3 oz fresh baby spinach
2 28oz jars of crushed fire roasted tomatoes (or your favorite spaghetti sauce or a combination of both)

“Meat” Filling:
2 tbsp olive oil, more as needed
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
Basil, dried, to taste
Oregano, dried, to taste
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

“Ricotta” Filling:
3 to 4oz chopped baby spinach
1 package (14oz) firm tofu, drained but not pressed
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp rosemary, crushed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F.

If using dried lasagna noodles, bring water to a boil in a large pot, add a pinch of salt and cook the noodles until al dente (follow instructions on the package).

Meanwhile, in a non stick pan, add the oil, mushrooms, garlic, and onion and saute until tender. Add the Smart Ground, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook on low to medium heat and stir until well combined and fragrant. Remove from heat and cover. Mix in about 15oz of spaghetti sauce if desired (but I usually leave it out and add it to the dish later).

Add all of the ricotta filling ingredients to the food processor and blend until well combined and smooth.

Now spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish. Place a layer of noodles over it, using 3 noodles (or more if you’re using smaller, “no-boil” noodles. Spread half of the tofu mixture on top of the noodles, then spread some of the meat mixture on top of that. Spread a layer of fresh spinach next. Then lay another 3 noodles on top, more sauce, and then a layer of the Daiya cheese evenly on that. Continue layering in this order until you’ve reached the top of the dish. You should end with noodles, sauce, and then cheese on the very top. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with vegan parmesan cheese, black olives, or dried rosemary, if desired.

Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving (it makes cutting through it easier).

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