vegan whole wheat red lasagna


Sometimes you never really know what you have until it's gone. And when you decide to generally consume less cheese, what you can pretty much count on eliminating is any sort of baked pasta dish. Usually filled with and/or topped with cheese, this isn't exactly vegan-friendly territory. But having recently had some pretty convincing (and surprisingly easy) vegan mac and cheese plus a very convincing vegan tzatziki sauce, I knew there were ways around the nearly dairy-free life without sacrificing traditional recipes and flavors.

I've tried my hand at making almond "feta" and figured that this basic recipe could also work out well as a vegan ricotta substitute. And I was right. This lasagna is perfect, satisfying and without a shred of cheese in sight.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 box whole wheat lasagna noodles (you could also use gluten free pasta sheets if you prefer)
3-4 cups of traditional marinara sauce, prepared

For the almond ricotta:

1 cup whole roasted almonds
1/4 cup of lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened

For the kidney bean filling:

1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of very fine bread crumbs OR cooked quinoa
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast, divided
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Salt & pepper

The first thing to do is begin by making your almond ricotta. This should really be made up to two days in advance to achieve the proper texture, but 24-28 hours may also be enough if you're pressed for time. Place your almonds in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak overnight or up to 24 hours (longer is better and will result in a creamier "cheese"!) When you're done soaking, drain and rinse well until the water runs almost clear.

Transfer your almonds to a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Add your lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cold water and pulse until smooth. I find that it works best when you pulse 5-10 times to get the mixture going and then just let the food processor run for several minutes. A little remaining texture is okay, so don't feel like you have to wait until it's completely smooth.

Line a large strainer with a double layer cheesecloth and place strainer over a bowl. Spoon your almond mixture into the cheesecloth. Bring the corners and sides of the cloth together, twisting closed. Secure with a rubber band or kitchen twine and let chill for 10-12 hours or overnight.
On the day you're ready to make your lasagna (because the cheese is finally ready), preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you haven't just made your sauce, get it simmering over medium-low heat so that it's warmed through when you're ready to assemble your lasagna.

Scrape your almond mixture out of the cheese cloth into a small bowl. Fold together with the almond milk and add your parsley, if using. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mash up your kidney beans until they become pasty. You can used the back of a fork to get this started, but feel free to use your hands if it seems easier. Add in your chopped onion, garlic and bread crumbs/quinoa and mix together. Next add 1 tablespoon of your nutritional yeast, half the olive oil, lemon zest and seasonings. Mix it all up (again, hands work) and get everything evenly distributed. If it feels a little dry or the mixture isn't sticking together, add a touch more olive oil.

Now the fun part: assembly! Beginning with a layer of tomato sauce in a lightly oiled square 9"x9" pan, alternate between noodles, ricotta and the kidney bean mixture. End with a final layer of lasagna noodles (overlapping if totally fine if necessary) and top with the remainder of your tomato sauce. Sprinkle the last two tablespoons of nutritional yeast on top and transfer to the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes.*

*As you check on your lasagna, if you start to notice that the top is becoming dark or getting too crunchy-looking (though who's to say?), simply cover with foil for the remainder of the cook time. 

And you thought vegan lasagna couldn't be done! I don't know if this is the stuff that a certain orange cat dreams about, but it definitely worked for me.

Living the pasta life?