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Vegetarian Lasagna with Chunky Tomato Sauce and Cashew Bechamel

Vegan Lasagna

I've always found that a good vegetarian lasagna always pleases a table seated with a mix of vegetarians and carnivores. Why not take it a step further and make the whole thing dairy-free? Those who have tried offerings from my kitchen need no convincing that vegan creations are every bit as delicious as their vegetarian counterparts, and certainly even those who still consume meat will find nothing amiss.

This might be a new favorite way to serve up lasagna. I admit there was a time when I couldn't imagine eating this popular dish without cheese. As it turns out, one does not have to resort to soy cheese, but instead can produce a protein rich and very satisfying meal using cashews as a substitute for the cheese. Loaded up with all kinds of vegetables, lovingly smothered in a rich tomato sauce, complete with the cashew Bechamel and topped with a vegan almond Parmesan cheese, guests might be going for seconds despite a full tummy.

Bechamel sauce:
  • 1 2/3 cups raw cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
Vegan almond Parmesan:
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Lasagna:
  • 6 to 8 large sheets fresh or cooked lasagna noodles, or as many as needed for three layers of pasta
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 8 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 5 1/2 oz (150 mL) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Instructions:
  • To make the Bechamel sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until well blended. Add more water if needed to achieve a smooth but fairly thick sauce.
  • For the almond Parmesan, combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and grind into a fine meal.
  • To make the lasagna, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. When hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Now add the jalapeño, carrots, celery and eggplant, and fry for a few more minutes. Now stir in the mushrooms, red pepper, tomatoes, water, oregano, paprika and ground cumin. Add the spinach and basil a few handfuls at a time and stir until wilted. Stir in the tomato paste and nutritional yeast and simmer until the vegetables are tender. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water. Stir in the olives and season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat an oven to 425°.
  • Spread the bottom of a 9 × 13 inch baking dish with a thin layer of the tomato sauce. Top with an even layer of lasagna sheets to cover. Spread with some Bechamel sauce, more tomato sauce and then lasagna noodles. Repeat, beginning with the tomato sauce, until you have three layers of lasagna, ending with tomato sauce spread on the top layer. Sprinkle the top with a generous amount of vegan Parmesan.
  • Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until bubbling and golden on top. Let cool for a bit before cutting and serving.

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