Growing up Italian, I feasted on ravioli, stuffed shells, and lasagna each and every week. However, even though I wasn't diagnosed with an intolerance to dairy until I was in my mid-teens, I can remember squeezing out the ricotta cheese, pushing it to the side and enjoying the tastes from the sauce and pasta in each dish. A part of me was just never cool with that ricotta! Either way, years later and I've created my own "ricotta cheese" alternative for this veggie lasagna. Best
part, I use brown rice noodles to make this dish not only dairy free, but gluten free! Tip: Don't tell anyone that this dish is vegan, gluten free, or healthy in anyway. I made this dish for Christmas dinner this year along side my Italian Aunt's traditional lasagna and every one of my family members (even my stubborn older Italian uncle!) insisted on trying it and were astonished at how good it was! Total hit!!
1/2 to 1 pound lasagna noodles (I love using brown rice lasagna noodles so it's gluten free!)
2 - 3 cups fresh spinach leaves chopped into bits
chopped mushrooms, carrots, broccoli or any other veggies you think would add to this dish
4 to 6 cups homemade tomato or pasta sauce of your choice (fresh is best, but if you buy jarred make sure it has little additives, no caNOla oil and is low in sodium/sugar)
1 cup raw cashews (soaked in filtered water overnight, rinsed and drained)
1 tbsp coconut oil (preferably one that has no taste)
1 tsp tahini
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp coconut milk
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp sea salt (or to taste)
2-3 tbsp water
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (about 20 leaves)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Chop spinach, mushrooms and any other veggies you're going to add.
Place all "cheese" ingredients (except for 1 tbsp water) in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. The "ricotta" will have a texture to it and that's ok, but blend it up as much as possible. Add that last tbsp of water if needed.
Cover bottom of 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of noodles. Follow with a layer of "cheese" filling. Sprinkle spinach, mushroom (and other veggies if using), then add a layer of sauce.
Continue in the same order until all of the "cheese" filling, veggies and noodles are through. End with remaining noodles, covered by remaining tomato sauce. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until hot.
Serving Variations: Add meatless meat crumbles (such as tempeh) to your tomato sauce for more texture and body.
This recipe is also great for making stuffed shells. To do so, stuff pasta shells with the "ricotta" from this recipe, place them in a baking dish, pour on tomato sauce and bake in a 350 degrees F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.