Thursday, December 29, 2011

Red Pepper and Mushroom Lasagna with Spinach Ricotta

Most of what I know about cooking comes from my mom, who is an amazing Italian cook.  So naturally, the first recipe I want to share with you is for a vegan version of our family's lasagna.  For the sauce, I used my mom's recipe for sweet and tangy marinara.  For the "ricotta," I combined and modified the recipes for Cashew Ricotta and Tofu Ricotta from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  (I definitely recommend this book; it's extensive and creative, and I have yet to find a recipe I didn't love!):

So, this dish takes a little bit of work, but it's satisfying, a complete meal, and perfect for making ahead.  Hope you like it!

Red Pepper and Mushroom Lasagna with Spinach Ricotta


Spinach “Ricotta”

  • ½ lb frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 lb firm tofu, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ c. cashews
  • 1/8 c. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 T olive oil (divided)
  • 1 T lemon juice (divided)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
 Marinara Sauce

  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz. can of peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 14-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ tsp fennel seeds
  • ¾ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp salt, adjusted to taste
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Heaping handful of fresh basil, chopped (or 1 T dried basil)

  • 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb package of white mushrooms (or any variety you like), thinly sliced
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, halved
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced (optional)


To prepare the sauce:

Heat olive oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and sauté until golden.  Add the tomatoes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Then, mash the tomatoes and allow to simmer for 2-4 hours with the pot half-covered.  If it starts to look too thick, stir in about half a cup of water at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.  Next, mix in the spices.  If desired, add 1-2 T of sugar. 

To prepare the “ricotta”:

Add the cashews, garlic powder, ½ T of olive oil and ½ T of lemon juice into a blender, and blend until smooth.  Add 1 T of water if needed.  The mixture should be a smooth paste.

Place the drained tofu in a large bowl and mash it with your hands or a fork until it crumbles to resemble ricotta.  Add the cashew mixture, nutritional yeast flakes, ½ T of olive oil, ½ T of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil and mix until smooth. 

Squeeze the spinach into a tight ball to drain all of the liquid out.  Mix the spinach into the tofu mixture and set aside. 

To prepare the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 400˚.  Place the red pepper halves on a baking sheet and lightly coat with olive oil.  Roast for twenty minutes, flipping at the halfway point, until they are tender and blackened.  When done, take out and set aside, then lower the heat to 375˚. 

Meanwhile, heat 1-2 T of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for another 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms are browned and tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the lasagna noodles and cook for about 5 minutes (or according to package directions), until they are flexible but still firm.  Drain well and set aside.  Be careful not to let the noodles stick together – if necessary, separate them on a plate or baking sheet.

When the vegetables are finished cooking, spread a thin layer of sauce mixed with about a tablespoon of water in the bottom of an 8x8 or 9x9 glass baking dish.  Place three noodles in the dish, overlapping to cover the bottom.  Spread half the “ricotta” mixture over the noodles.  Next, layer half the mushroom/onion mixture and half the peppers over the ricotta.  Cover with sauce and repeat.  Finish with a layer of noodles, and cover with sauce. 

If desired, top with sliced tomatoes.  Tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, then uncover and bake for 20-25 more minutes, until browned and bubbly. 


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