Pesto Veggie Lasagna

This might be my favorite lasagna ever – and it’s vegan! I know – I’ve been making a lot of “best ever” claims lately, but I’ve really been on a roll in the kitchen. While this recipe is a little bit labor intensive, it’s easy labor – and the end result is beyond worth it.

I made this dish for my family’s Christmas get together in Chicago last week (though it was just vegetarian for them and not vegan, as I couldn’t find Daiya on short notice Christmas eve). It almost didn’t happen; do you have any idea how hard it is to find lasagna noodles at 4pm on Christmas Eve? We had to go to 2 stores, and I got the very last package on the shelf at store #2 (thank you, Target!) It was well worth the search. This lasagna got thumbs-up reviews from even the meat eaters, and I enjoyed it so much that I made it again at home for New Years.

This recipe makes a 9×13″ dish of lasagna – good for 8 serious servings (which in my case means, a freezer full of lasagna!) For the record, it does freeze and reheat very well. If you plan to go that route, let it cool down a bit then portion it out into freezer-safe containers and freeze. You can also make this a day ahead of time and refrigerate it prior to baking, then toss it in the oven when it’s time to make dinner. Just add 5-10 minutes if you’re starting with cold lasagna.

Without further ado, my favorite lasagna recipe of all times:

Pesto Veggie Lasagna

by Shelly Hokanson

Prep Time: 30

Cook Time: 35

Ingredients (8 servings)

Lasagna

  • 1 pkg lasagna noodles (12+ noodles – no-boil are fine)
  • 1 cup pesto – see recipe below
  • 5 – 6 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
  • 5 cups grilled or sautéed veggies – choose from zucchini, eggplant, red or green bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, broccoli, or your favorites. My favorite mix: 1 red pepper – diced, 1 zucchini – cut into half moons, and 1 head of broccoli florets.
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 lb or 1 – 14oz package herbed tofu, firm or extra firm (Italian herbed tofu works great here), pressed and crumbled
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced (8 slices)
  • 1 package (8 oz) Daiya mozzarella or other vegan shredded cheese
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara

Pesto

  • 1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or, replace with additional 1/4 cup walnuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, scant
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions

This first step is optional, but highly recommended. Preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet (such as a cast iron skillet) over medium-low heat. Add the walnuts to the dry skillet and toast for 5 minutes, tossing often. Then add the pine nuts and toast an additional 5 minutes. (If using all walnuts, add them all at the start and toast for 10 minutes).

Set toasted nuts aside to cool.

Prep the Veggies

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes.

As you chop up the rest of your veggies, add them to the pan, stirring often. If the pan dries out, add a tablespoon or two of water to deglaze the pan and keep on saute-ing.

Continue to saute the veggies while preparing the pesto.

Prep the Pesto

Add the toasted nuts to a food processor.

Add the minced garlic, basil, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast until the basil leaves are well blended, scraping down the sides of the food processor as necessary.

Slowly stream in the olive oil and process until well combined.

Blend in the lemon juice.

Assemble the Lasagna

In a 13×19″ dish, coat the bottom of the dish with a layer of marinara.

Place one layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the dish.

Layer more marinara on top of the noodles.

Then, add the baby spinach over the noodles.

Crumble the tofu on top of the spinach.

Sprinkle a layer of shredded Daiya over the tofu, then add a second layer of noodles.

Coat the noodles with another marinara layer.

Add the veggies to the next layer and top with a generous layer of pesto.

Add the last layer of noodles and coat with remaining marinara.

Add the rest of the shredded cheese. Place 8 dollops of pesto across the top, and add a tomato slice onto each dollop of pesto.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F, until the lasagna is warmed through and the cheese is melted.

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Memories

Though I’m not eating sandwiches on my fruit/veggie reboot plan, that doesn’t mean I can’t drool over sandwiches past:

Pesto Grilled Cheese (Daiya Mozz)

Pesto Grilled Cheese (Daiya Mozz)

Pictured: two slices of homemade bread cradling a generous bit of Post Punk Kitchen’s Bestest Pesto and ooey, gooey melted Daiya mozzarella vegan cheese… lovingly grilled on the Griddler panini press.

It was magnificently wonderful.

Purple Cauliflower

Purple Cauliflower

Your eyes are not deceiving you. This isn’t some wacky Photoshop hack.

Purple Cauliflower

Purple Cauliflower

I was wandering through the last few days of the fall market at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market when I came across a booth with… purple cauliflower? I asked the farmer, “What is this purple cauliflower?” and he replied, “Well, it’s purple cauliflower!” I was expecting some sort of bizarre answer, after my encounters with alien cauliflower, but no. It was just purple cauliflower. According to Wikipedia:

Purple color in cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine.[9] Varieties include ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Purple Cape’.

Excellent! But what would I do with it?

I decided to follow the same path as I did with the romanesco cauliflower; I boiled it.

Purple Cauliflower, boiling

Purple Cauliflower, boiling

Holy cow – that was fun!

Then, I mixed it with some Daiya mozzarella and unsweetened soymilk and turned it into cheesy purple cauliflower.

Cheesy Purple Cauliflower

Cheesy Purple Cauliflower

And while this was cheesy right off the spoon, it was even more delicious when I started dunking hunks of crusty bread into it.

I will miss the awesome produce of the farmers market through the winter. The market does continue through the winter here, but finding local, seasonal produce becomes less and less likely. Just one more reason to look forward to spring!

Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Today, I bring to you another example of just how messed up the US processed food industry is:

BacOs are vegan.

Yeah, BacOs, like, bacon bits – there’s no bacon in them.

(Note: vegan does not equal healthy. They’re made with genetically modified soy and a bunch of chemical crap… but they sure do remind me of my youth, and that tends to lead to some good tasting eats).

I picked up another alien (aka romanesco) cauliflower at the farmers market and was trying to figure out what to do with it. The onset of chilly fall weather has me clamoring for comfort food, so I decided to turn my Christmas Tree Veggie into cheezy bacon cauliflower.

I boiled the romanesco cauliflower for 5 minutes or so, then drained it and combined it with some Daiya cheddar, soymilk, and BacOs.

It was a glorious way to eat my veggies!

Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Paired with a poor-man’s veggie burger (I was out of buns!)

So good.

Tempeh Helper

NoBurger Helper

If you grew up on Hamburger Helper, this bowl of deliciousness is for you.

Behold: Tempeh Helper!

Tempeh Helper

Tempeh Helper

It’s a variation of Isa’s recipe from Appetite for Reduction. If you don’t have the cookbook (umm, why not??!) she’s got a similar version posted on her web site – just minus out the chili powder: Tempeh Helper. The oven mitt hand man is totally creepy.

I can’t promise that this version is as light on calories as hers, but it’s a bit more satisfying. I say this only because vegan cheeze sauces are notoriously thin and less-than-cheezy, and since the advent of Daiya vegan cheese, there’s just no reason not to indulge.

So my version used Isa’s seasoning mix and recipes for the pasta and tempeh, combined with Mama Pea’s use of silken tofu and Daiya for the cheese sauce.

It’s a perfect throwback to Hamburger Helper, and hit a huge vibe in the Comfort Food category. Definitely a winner. This recipe could easily be bulked up with some broccoli or romanesco cauliflower (my new obsession).

In fact, writing this post might induce me to make this recipe again for dinner tonight!

The Godmother & My Veggie Drawer

Please excuse me. I’m having a food-gasm over here.

It’s Day 2 with my Griddler grill/panini press, and in another attempt to use up some leftovers, I accidentally recreated my second favorite pizza joint sandwich, vegan style:

The Godmother, from Nancy’s PizzaOven Baked Breaded Chicken Tenders with Red Sauce and Melted Mozzarella Cheese, served on Homemade Garlic Bread

Oh, yes. Yes. YES!

Not coincidentally, my ultimate favorite pizza joint sandwich also comes from Nancy’s. Of course, now that I’m neither eating chicken nor cheese, I will have to find a way to recreate this one as well:

The Chicken Club – Oven Baked Breaded Chicken Tenders, Fresh Bacon, Melted Mozzarella Cheese, Lettuce, Fresh Roma Tomatoes, and Creamy Garlic Sauce served on our Homemade Garlic Bread

I bet I could make a wicked-good vegan garlic sauce! The rest is cake, since I already figured it out.

Behold:

Godmother Panini (vegan)Starring:

– Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon

– Mom’s Marinara from Appetite for Reduction

Daiya mozzarella (best vegan cheese evah!)

– A little bit of Earth Balance (vegan butter)

Supporting act:

Salad

Help! I'm running out of vegetables!

Mixed greens, a grated carrot, and a handful of alfalfa sprouts doused with Sanctuary Dressing (also from Appetite for Reduction). The produce drawer in my fridge is looking pretty sad at the moment. Not even a cucumber to be found.

Tangent!

My veggie drawer typically contains:

– 1 bunch of kale (for making kale chips!)
– 1 cucumber
– 1 avocado (OK fine, avo is a fruit, so what)
– 1 red pepper (I know, I know! Red pepper is technically [botanically] a fruit too. But I eat it as a vegetable!)
– 1 bunch of broccoli
– 1 onion (yellow or white)
– 1 bunch asparagus
– Leafy greens (either an organic spring greens mix, or a mixed greens with spinach type thing)
– 1 bag of carrots

Those are my weekly go-to’s, mostly for salad purposes. Other veggies find their way into my fridge, but the list above is pretty much what I buy every week. Since there’s only one of me, I have to go to the grocery store weekly because I can only eat so much before it goes bad! Luckily, being a Perimeter Shopper at the grocery store, it’s easy to get in and out quickly. Sometimes the asparagus turns into green beans. Sometimes the broccoli becomes cauliflower. There’s usually 1 dinner veggie and a ton of salad veggies.

What’s in your veggie drawer?