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This article is not something I’d normally post to Noob Cuisine. Why? Because lasagna made like this takes 3 hours and a lot of groceries to prepare. And that’s not normally what this website is about. However, making this lasagna is a labor of love for me.
It’s something that I do with the help of the kids and the hubs and it becomes kind of an event in the house. We’re listening to music, catching up, and snacking on the left-overs before the main course is even finished! So, just know, going into this recipe – it’s not simple and quick.
Also – I took shots of the original, using the Chao Slices, but turns out, I took those in a format that works better on Instagram than on our website. So the second shot that I took is actually vegetarian and not vegan – because I mixed the vegan mozzarella and a bit of light mozzarella cheese to top the lasagna that night.
Like I have stated before, these recipes can be used to make vegan, vegetarian, or if you want to add in animal products – you can (though, there are a ton of other websites dedicated to that and not so many that focus on plant-based stuff).
Now that I’ve gotten my disclaimers out of the way – on to the article!
As a child, the first dish that my Nanny taught me was lasagna. Lasagna made this way is not for the faint of heart. It takes quite a lot of time. These were the things she taught me. She only made it for special occasions, because it was expensive to make. Now, her lasagna was full of beef and egg noodles and cheese, ricotta and even small curd cottage cheese along with heavy mounds of mozzarella on top. She used what she had on hand for the sauce, whether it was home-canned and stored tomato base simmered all day long with the proper ingredients for spicing it up or the canned marinara from the grocery store.
As I began this blog, I realized I needed to showcase a new version of this recipe. I think I could veganize it, nay… I HAD to try and veganize it. Definitely! But, before we begin, I’ll let you know, this is a multiple recipe article. Why? Because there are several schools of thought where veggie lasagna is concerned. And just making lasagna? It’s like making three things in one dish. It’s like an ultimate casserole.
For one thing, any cheese can be dairy or non-dairy. If you are definitely vegan, you can always switch out the cheese portions for types of cheese you prefer that are made of the product you prefer. There are cream cheeses made from various non-dairy sources out there, but you have to dig to find them. Also, the flavor may be a bit different than standard cheese.
My personal preference on that would be to suggest sliced Original Field Roast Chao Cheese in the layers while using Violife Shredded Mozzarella on top. Our family has tried product after product this year and those two seem to be our favorite of all the cheese alternatives. Violife products cost more than your standard fare of cheese brands, but it has a cheesier taste and fewer processed ingredients. If you don’t mind a bit softer of a cheese taste for a lower price mark, use Whole Foods 365 brand of mozzarella. I like the idea of fewer processed ingredients and a better taste.
Don’t we all? When you are originally meat and dairy eaters, you go for what tastes most like what you’ve had.
If you’re vegetarian or are just trying to have a great meal but you’re not necessarily going all-in on vegan eating, regular cheese will work great, too. In this recipe, I try to use less dairy, because of my stomach issues after I go wild with any dairy products. Yikes!
So, there are actually 3 different styles I have tried for this particular one-pan recipe. I prefer the mushroom and bean mixture, myself. For this, you pulse onions, garlic, mushrooms, and red lentils or if you need to use them, chickpeas in your food processor until you have a consistency you like and then you use that as your “meat”. Red lentils are better, because they don’t have so much of a “bean” taste, so they kind of hide in the meat-texture.
Also, they have a bunch of protein. I will sometimes cook this mixture before using it, depending upon the recipe. I do not pulverize it, because I want it to mimic meat. Also, I’ve found that adding some of the Gardein Meatless Crumbles to this also helps with the texture. You can also cut up some vegan italian sausage. That’s again, up to you. I imagine you can completely bypass making a “meat” for your lasagna and just go full on veggie with layers of sliced mushrooms sauteed with onions and garlic.
Again, I just want to reiterate that we used to use meat filled dishes and so this comes of wanting to get it as close to the original recipe as possible. You may decide to go with meat or to not use a meat substitute at all.
Noodles, if made certain ways and with certain ingredients can be vegan or at the very least, vegetarian. I’m going to list both recipes I’ve tried and let you decide which you prefer, but I can tell you that as for me and my family, we prefer the one wherein the noodles are actually thinly sliced eggplant or zucchini layered in with the sauce, cheese, and meat-mixture.
Oh, it is so yum! It has so much more “kick” and of course the extra dose of veggies to it than the standard fare. Is it healthier? Probably. However, in the longer version of this recipe I was taught to pre-fry the zucchini or eggplant slices until crisp and brown – which means there’s extra oil involved. You don’t have to do this.
You could just do what I do, and boil or “soften” the slices in. Or, if you prefer pasta, you can choose your noodles wisely. I know several retailers are now carrying a chickpea based box of lasagna noodles or vegetable boosted noodles as well, so those would work fantastically. It’s up to you to decide on the recipe, try it out and then just enjoy.
Whenever I want to “veganize” a recipe, I think back to the reasoning for this – to just eat healthier. If you use meat in your recipe, but this recipe set helps you to understand that you can add more vegetables to that original and it still taste great – my job has been done. Incorporating more vegetables into your diet is going to make your body feel so much better.
Remember – because we’re foodies, we don’t want to just eat healthier – we want it to taste good, too. Can you make this in a much simpler fashion? Sure! You can substitute canned items and take shortcuts. I’m just giving you my way of making this recipe, because it’s a very special recipe for me. Like all of my recipes, take from them what you like. Please, adjust things as you feel you need to adjust them. Remember my Rules of Recipes – make it your own.
Ingredients & Instructions for Layers:
Use your choice of meats or any mixture of these can be substituted:
- 1 CUP red lentils
- ½ a large, finely chopped onion
- 1 CUP mushrooms chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- Your favorite brand of meatless crumbles
- 1 teaspoon oregano
At the end of this, you should have at least a pound (½ kg) of meat/meat substitute. You’ll want to prepare the lentils as they should be prepared and set them aside or plan them to be ready for when you are. In the meantime, saute your onions and mushrooms in olive oil for about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir for one minute. Then add your other meat / meatless crumbles and lentils until they are all cooked well and mixed up. Lower the heat to medium low and stir occasionally until you’re pleased with the cooking. I wound up with left-over meat substitute that I used in a different recipe later in the week.
For other layers:
- 2 – 3 cups baby spinach
- 2 CUPS portobello mushrooms sauteed in olive oil
- 3 eggplants thinly sliced in large slices and cooked til “al-dente”
You know how to do this. Wilt the spinach in a skillet with some oil salt and pepper. Same with the mushrooms. If you’re like me and just want to make things simpler, saute the mushrooms until they’re softened, then put the spinach over it and let it wilt and mix it all together.
Now, if you wanted to fry the vegetable “noodles” first, you’ve need a set up for it, which is an extra step. You’ve flour each slice, dip it in a flax/water mix or an egg, then apply the dried breadcrumbs mixed with garlic powder. You’ll fry them until golden brown and then drain them on paper towels. Then, that would be your noodles for your noodle layer.
Use Ricotta Cheese or this substitute:
- 1 CUP Cashew Flour – I had on here to use raw cashews, but I couldn’t find them and the cashews I did find were more expensive than the flour. And do you know what cashew flour has in it? Ground cashews. So I saved $3 and had less work to do.
- 16 ounces of FIRM tofu – drained but not pressed. The moisture is fine for this recipe.
- ¼ CUP nutritional yeast
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon basil (dried preferred this time)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Place cashews in your food processor and pulse until fine and crumbly OR just pour 1 cup of cashew flour into the food processor.. Add the tofu in chunks, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, basil, oregano and garlic powder to the food processor. Pulse until well combined and decently smooth – the consistency of ricotta cheese is perfect, right?
Use 2 large containers of your favorite marinara sauce or substitute:
- 2 LARGE cans of whole peeled tomatoes (or diced, up to you)
- 2 medium yellow onions (one chopped & one halved)
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 tablespoon worth of chopped fresh basil (optional)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (if you like a little kick)
- Salt to taste
In a large saucepan, combine the tomatoes (with juice), onions, garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Heat the sauce over medium-high heat, for about 15 minutes. Crush the tomatoes in the pan. Then, lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer – stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and discard the halved onions.
Smash the garlic cloves and any larger pieces of onion against the side of the pot with a fork, then stir the smashed goodies into the sauce. You can blend this sauce smooth or do as I did and use a meat stirrer to chop and move everything. Now, you can add some salt to taste or not, depending on your palette. I usually then mix the marinara with my meat/meat substitute.
Anything left over is good for 4 days in a fridge or 6 months in a freezer.
THE MAIN EVENT:
- Set the oven to 375°F (190°C)
- Start by spreading a thin layer of the marinara in the bottom of a rectangular casserole pan. I use a huge 10 x 15 inch, but a lot of people use similar 9 x13 pans, so long as you can get it to fit that’s great! And if it doesn’t all fit, use a second dish and layer that one. Or use some left overs for other dishes or snack on them, like my kids and hubs did while we waited on the finished product.
- Place whichever noodles you decided to use over the sauce in a layer.
- Top that with your ricotta cheese or the cheese substitute.
- Add a layer of the mushrooms & spinach
- Place a layer of your mozarella or the sliced chao cheese next.
- Mix the meat and the marinara sauce together and make a layer of that.
- Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese / non-dairy parmesan cheese
- Start over with the layering from the noodles onward.
- Top it with your mozarella or the chao and then use a nice heavy sprinkle of parmesan on the very top of the masterpiece.
- Cover this with foil (you may want to spray the part of the foil that will be close to the top, just in case it touches the cheese. Try not to touch the cheese.
- I place an extra baking sheet beneath this pan, just in case of spillage.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for another 25 minutes.
- Cool for at least 15 minutes before you serve it.