When I was a kid, I remember my mom asking me what I wanted to eat on my birthday.
“Lasagna!” I didn’t even have to think about it. All that cheesy, saucy, noodle-y goodness baked up so that it holds together yet still oozes a bit out the sides? Yeah. Not even pizza could beat that in my 10-year-old mind. My mom made THE BEST lasagna.
As it turns out, my husband, Aaron, did the exact same thing as a kid. He asked for it on his birthday and thought his mom’s was the absolute best. So, maybe every kid does this? Or, it was just fate that us, two childhood birthday lasagna fans, came together later in life to create this awesome union of ours.
I’m going with the latter.
Anyways, since transitioning to a plant-based diet, I’ve tried many vegan lasagnas. But, as you probably can imagine, they didn’t quite fulfill my deep-seeded lasagna craving. They just seemed…fake.
I decided to tackle this fake lasagna issue recently as my birthday is coming up and I got to thinking that birthday lasagna should make a comeback in my life. After experimenting with a couple methods, this absolutely killer vegetable lasagna emerged. And, it’s completely plant-based.
BRILLIANT! I could hug myself.
Wanna know the best part? Other than that it tastes like a birthday party in your mouth? It’s super easy. WAY easier than traditional lasagna. It requires only three steps:
1. Make the cashew ricotta
2. Sauté the veggies
3. Assemble the lasagna
Step One: the cashew ricotta is a crucial ingredient to this craving-worthy casserole. It provides such a deep, rich, cheesy flavor. To make it, after soaking the cashews for at least 2 hours, all you do is put the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Done.
Step 2: the sautéed mushrooms add a meaty bite and bulk up the lasagna’s layers. Also a win is that all of the veggies require only a minimal amount of chopping. I know us people who eat a lot of veggies sometimes get sick of ALL THAT CHOPPING!
Step 3: get out your spatula and get ready to layer! It’s quite easy. More detail on the layers are included in the recipe below and the picture above.
I will happily admit that this recipe calls for sauce from a jar. I know, I know, oh heavens! You are by all means welcome to make homemade marinara to replace the jarred pasta sauce. However, to keep this simple and not a slave-away-in-the-kitchen-all-day meal I’m suggesting to go with the convenience factor for this aspect of the dish. I used Delallo’s Tomato Basil pasta sauce and it was perfect.
All together these steps should take around 20 minutes. Then, after 50 minutes in the oven voilá! Lasagna fit for your next birthday party.
A final note: this recipe makes an 8×8 pan full. If you’d like to make a 9×13 pan of lasagna, I’d recommend multiplying the recipe ingredients by 1.5x. Or, to make it easy, multiply by 2 knowing you might have some ingredients leftover.
- ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight, then drained
- 1 large garlic clove
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened original almond or soy milk
- ½ cup fresh basil (optional)
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 16 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- 5 ounces fresh spinach
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1-25.5 ounce jar of pasta sauce (make sure it’s meat and dairy free)
- 5 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles (I recommend Delallo whole wheat no boil lasagna noodles)
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Make the cashew ricotta. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides once or twice to ensure an even, smooth texture. You'll want to make sure to let the food processor run for at least 90 seconds.
- Sauté the veggies. Heat a fry pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until onions are slightly softened. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for 5-7 minutes. The mushrooms should start to brown slightly and most of the moisture should cook off. Season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and sauté for an additional minute or until the spinach is wilted.
- Heat oven to 360 degrees fahrenheit. Assemble the lasagna. Spread ½ cup sauce over the bottom of an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish. Cover the sauce with a single layer of lasagna noodles. Two Delallo whole wheat noodles should fit perfectly side by side. Spread a layer of cashew ricotta on top of the noodles. You want to aim to use a third of the ricotta for each layer. Next, add a layer of the veggies, again aiming to use about a third of the veggies. Cover the veggies with sauce. Repeat these steps (starting with the noodles) two more times. You should use 6 noodles, all of the cashew ricotta and veggies, and should have about a quarter of the sauce left. Add one more layer of noodles and finish with a thick layer of sauce.
- Bake at 360 degrees for 40 minutes. Then, crank the heat up to 400 and bake for an additional 10 minutes, removing from the oven if the sides start to brown too much or the top starts to dry out. Top with chopped parsley. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.