Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna

Vegetarian lasagna is often uninspired and over-vegetabled. I’m thinking of that broccoli, carrot in cream sauce wonder we’ve all endured at holiday gatherings or office parties. You know, the stuff sold by the slab at Costco, in the freezer section. It’s, um, okay. It’s mild and creamy but it’s not what I think of when I crave lasagna.

This recipe is, though. This is hearty, tomatoey, cheesey, chunky heaven. It’s basically your R.D.A. for delicious all in one pan.

The sauce has a magic ingredient. Wait, that’s all wrong. The sauce has a common ingredient, used magically. And it’s tomato paste. Tomato paste! This isn’t a two tablespoons and you’re done kind of tomato sauce. Noooo sir, it’s a whole can and you should make sure to use a rubber spatula to get it all out kind of sauce. It’s transformational. It takes an otherwise regular sauce and makes it rich and complex — I didn’t even know tomatoes could be rich — but they can. And it’s awesome.

The filling is fairly standard. This lasagna isn’t trying to win any prizes for creativity. Lots of cheese with sauteed mushrooms and spinach. Very how-mom-makes-it. Which is great. Because mom is a culinary genius. Right? Right.

A quick note on fake meats. I put in crumbled Field Roast Italian sausage in the sauce. Field Roast is my favorite fake meat. It seems the least processed and is the most delicious. Win. Win. I’ve also used Gimme Lean sausage style to good effect. Morning Star farms use to (maybe still does?) make a sausage crumble in the freezer section. Have you ever tried making your own? There are lots of great seitan recipes on this here webbernets. The best Italian sausage one is here. Deeeelicious. You can leave it out, or maybe put mushrooms in the sauce and eggplant and spinach in the lasagna? Mix it up, you really can’t go wrong.

Vegetarian Hearty Lasagna

(adapted from Cooking Light’s Hearty Lasagna)

The Sauce

Couple tablespoons olive oil for sautéing
1 package Gimme Lean, sausage style
Half a medium white onion, finely diced
3  garlic cloves, minced
1  (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1  (14 1/2-ounce) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
1  (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1  (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1/4  teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste

The Filling

1 package crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 pound baby spinach, washed, stems on
1 glove garlic, minced
2 cups cottage cheese
1 (15-ounce) container of ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg or 1/4-cup egg whites or egg replacer
1 tablespoon dried or fresh parsley

The Noodles

12 cooked lasagna noodles

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350º.

Heat olive oil in 4 quart pan. Add onion and diced Gimme Lean. Cook until “sausage” starts to brown slightly. Add garlic, oregano, basil and pepper. Stir in diced tomatoes, Italian-style tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Let simmer for 25 minutes, tasting and adding salt if necessary.

In chef’s pan, heat olive oil or cooking spray over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir. Wilt spinach over simmering mushrooms. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Transfer to bowl, set aside.

In medium sized bowl, mix cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, egg and parsley together.

To assemble the lasagna, coat a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. Spread 1 cup tomato mixture evenly across bottom of dish. Arrange 4 noodles over tomato mixture; top with half of cottage cheese mixture, 2 cups tomato mixture, and 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan. Repeat layers, remembering to add in your spinach and mushroom mix near the middle, ending with noodles. Spread the remaining tomato sauce over the top and finish with remaining cheese and a touch of parsley for some color.

Bake in a 350º oven for 45 minutes on a lipped cookie sheet (just in case of spills).

10 Comments

  1. Posted October 11, 2010 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    I’ve never made a recipe with a whole can of tomato paste before. Sounds intense!

  2. Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see the best vegan lasagne. I wonder what it would be like if you substituted vegan cheese for all the regular cheese. What would it lose, if anything … or gain?

  3. altrooheather
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Extreme cooking!!!

  4. altrooheather
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Here is a tofu ricotta recipe from Whole Foods: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2756

    I’d use that and up the veggies a whole bunch instead of the other cheeses. Maybe add in sauteed eggplant and zucchini.

    I bet it would be delicious and wouldn’t be missing a thing (and it would gain veganess!)

  5. Posted October 11, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I’m going to get right on it. Soon. One of these days. At least I’m going to give the ricotta a quick try. Thanks.

  6. altrooheather
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Lasanga is a bit of an undertaking. I was calling my kitchen post lasagna making the lasagnapocalypse. Very accurate statement.

  7. Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I’m used to that if I let my wife do the cooking. I don’t know how it’s possible to use every bowl and pot and pan when before the meal our kitchen looked like a mini-manhattan fully stocked kitchen stadium. Eggplant Parmigianapocalypse, lasagnapocoalypse, scrambled eggsacpocalypse, coffee with a splash of silk creamerapocalypse. Yeah, we have bomb shelter drills several times a day.

  8. altrooheather
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Ha! Coffee with a splash of creamerapocoalypse make me laugh!

  9. Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Very glad to help you get your daily laugh.

  10. altrooheather
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    :)

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