My mom is known for her lasagna. Family gatherings, parties, holidays, she always made lasagna. I have many memories of making lasagna together, trying to pull out the cooked noodles from the pot without breaking them in half (it always happened anyway) and setting it in layers.
Mom recently shared her lasagna recipe with me. So I’m trying to do her justice here by taking her recipe but veganizing it, replacing beef with a combination of mushrooms and red lentils and substituting the cheese for a tofu “ricotta”. Wait, don’t go! Tofu ricotta might sound odd but you should know that my meat-loving fiancé said that it didn’t even taste vegan and that he didn’t miss the meat and cheese at all. Another big difference with this lasagna is that you can actually cook the noodles in the baking pan, eliminating an entire step of the recipe!
Lasagna originates from Italy – many attribute it to the city of Naples, and some say that people there have been making it since the Middle Ages. Lasagna usually consist of the noodles made from durum wheat, meaty sauce, vegetables, and cheeses such as ricotta , Parmesan or mozzarella. Of course, there are hundreds if not thousands of variations of lasagna now. I grew up eating a lot of Italian food, or at least Italian-American food (never been to Italy myself) because my home state of Rhode Island has a lot of people descended from Italian immigrants.
And what’s not to love about lasagna? It’s festive, great for gatherings, easy to freeze, comforting in the cold winter, and a lot of food for less than 2 hours of work. And this one is packed with protein from the red lentils and tofu!
To adapt this recipe I consulted the following cookbooks: Thug Kitchen Party Grub (they changed their brand name to Bad Manners this past year after years of criticism, but the cookbook still has the original name) and The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
Mushroom & Lentil Vegan Lasagna
90 minutes, makes one lasagna
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 1 pound mushrooms (your choice, I used cremini), chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 14 ounces extra firm tofu, crumbled
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped and divided
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/3 cup cashews, soaked for 8 hours or overnight (see directions)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 50 ounces of your favorite pasta sauce (two 25-ounce jars)
- 16 ounces (1 package) lasagna noodles
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Small pot
- Large frying pan
- 9×13″ baking dish, or the closest size you have
- Blender or food processor
First soak your cashews. Forgot to do this and what to make the recipe now? I always, and I mean always, forget to do this step in advance but you can fix it in a few minutes with this tip. Heat some water until boiling and pour them over the cashews. Let them sit until you need them – I try to leave it for as long as possible. Then drain use the cashews as though you have soaked them for hours.
Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
Heat the vegetable broth or water and lentils on medium high heat in a medium pot. I like cooking lentils in vegetable broth because it adds more flavor. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until lentils are cooked and the water is evaporated. Drain any excess water.
While the lentils are cooking, sauté the mushrooms. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or water/broth if oil-free) in a large frying pan until hot, then add mushrooms. Add the lentils once cooked and oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder. Cook until mushrooms are soft and liquid is evaporated, then remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Make the tofu risotto. Add tofu, 1/4 cup parsley, nutritional yeast, soaked cashews, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and a dash of salt and pepper to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, like the texture of ricotta. (If you want an extra “cheesy” lasagna, I’d recommend doubling this)
Assemble the lasagna in a 9×13″ pan (or, if like me you don’t have one, the closest thing you have to it. I used a 10×14″ and it was fine). Start with a small layer of pasta sauce in the pan, then add the noodles on top. Add about one-quarter of the pasta sauce, followed by one-third of the mushroom-lentil mix, and one-quarter of the risotto in small dollops. Press the next layers of noodles on top and repeat the order until you can’t make another layer.
Use any remaining sauce on the top layer, making sure to cover all the noodle edges in sauce (this will ensure that the lasagna cooks evenly). Add small dollops of the tofu ricotta on top. Cover in aluminum foil.
Bake covered for 45 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and check that the pasta is cooked. Bake uncovered for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped parsley on top. Enjoy!