Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with a group of people taking a Civil Rights Tour through the South. The menu for the night was barbecued pork sandwiches and pork-and-beans, the idea being to give them a little taste of local cuisine (which revolves around pork, apparently).
The only problem: Several of the 30 participants were vegetarian. When the planners of the dinner realized this, a call went out for vegan dishes, and I was happy to oblige with my potluck standard, vegan lasagna.
I’ve been making this recipe for years, and I can’t bring myself to change it. I keep thinking I should do something to fancy it up, but it’s my daughter’s all-time favorite food, so I never want to risk ruining a batch. (This is a kid who has written several essays this year about her love for lasagna; her hero is Garfield the cat.)
Recipes for vegan lasagna abound, and I’m sure you can find fancier, richer tasting versions, but for sheer easiness of preparation and basic yumminess, this one can’t be beat. You don’t need to pre-cook the lasagna noodles, and you can make it super-easy by using jarred spaghetti sauce.
You can make this as light or decadent as you want. Your choice of spaghetti sauce will determine how much fat it has. (For the lowest-fat version, use a sauce with no oil added; Whole Foods has one.)
For some special occasions, I sprinkle the lasagna with vegan cheese during the last 5 minutes of cooking. This option is, of course, not fat-free, but it really helps “sell” it to any omnivores you happen to be feeding.
But the plain, uncheesified lasagna seemed to be a hit at last night’s dinner. The pan returned home empty (and not just because E. ate 4 pieces!) I regret that I never got the opportunity to find out who the vegetarians in the group were, but it felt good just to know that they were there.
Easy Vegan Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
Using dry lasagna noodles eliminates the process of boiling the noodles and saves time. The extra sauce cooks into the noodles, making them more flavorful than boiled lasagna noodles.
- 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms sliced
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 24-oz jars spaghetti sauce or your favorite pasta sauce
- 9 uncooked lasagna noodles (regular lasagna noodles NOT no-boil noodles)
- Vegan Parmesan such as my almond parm, optional
- Sliced black olives optional
- 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach thawed and drained
- 1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu not silken!
- 1 teaspoon salt optional
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast adds a cheesy taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary crushed
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Sauté the mushrooms and garlic over medium heat in the 2 tbsp. water until tender; cover between stirring to keep them from drying out. Remove from heat and add the spaghetti sauce.
- Place the tofu and thawed spinach in the food processor and process briefly. Add the remaining filling ingredients to the processor and blend until smooth. (You may do this without a food processor by using a potato masher on the tofu.)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spread half of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×12-inch pan. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce, using three dry noodles and leaving a little space in between them. Spread half of the tofu mixture on the noodles (you can drop it by spoonfuls and then spread it or hold each noodle in the palm of your hand and spread the tofu on it before placing it in the pan). Cover with another layer of 3 noodles and then spread the remaining tofu mixture over them. Top with a final layer of noodles, and pour the remaining sauce over this.
Cover the dish tightly with 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 or cheese and sliced black olives if you want. The lasagna will cut better if you allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Optional high-fat version: Sprinkle with a grated vegan cheese during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Calorie and fat content will vary depending on the brand you use.
The nutritional data below is not exact and will depend on the particular ingredients used. This analysis was created using regular (not light) tofu and Barilla Tuscan Herb Pasta Sauce (with 70 calories and 2 grams of fat per 1/2 cup) and no optional ingredients except salt.