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, Easy Spinach and Mushroom 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.) 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.
- 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tsp. chopped garlic
- 2 tbsp. water
- 2 24-oz jars of spaghetti sauce (or your favorite pasta sauce)
- 9 dried lasagna noodles–regular lasagna noodles of any kind, including gluten-free, uncooked (NOT no-boil noodles)
- Soy Parmesan (optional)
- Sliced black olives (optional)
- 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 1 lb tofu (firm, reduced-fat recommended–not silken!)
- 1 tsp. salt (optional)
- 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (adds a cheesy taste)
- 1 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. basil
- 1/2 tsp. rosemary, crushed
- 1/8 tsp. 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 soy Parmesan and sliced black olives if you want. The lasagna will cut better if you allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
The 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.
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