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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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?

Italian Eggplant over Pasta

This week’s trip out to Whole Foods Market yielded a beautiful purple organic eggplant! I’ve never cooked with fresh eggplant – only with pre-prepared, frozen varieties. I was excited to get to work with the real thing!

I knew I was going to go Italian with this beauty (thanks to Armando for the suggestion!). I wanted to try grilling it, but rain (like Niemi) said NO! Enter: the ol’ George Foreman grill. There’s got to be a way to make eggplant on the George, right?!

Indeed! So I whipped up a simple cornmeal breading with oregano, garlic salt, and a little chili powder. Then I sliced up that eggplant and rubbed each slice with a light coating of garlic-infused olive oil. I dredged the slices through the cornmeal breading, patted them down, and tossed them onto the George Foreman grill. 5 minutes later, they smelled wonderful! I transferred the eggplant rounds to a baking dish, topped with a jar of organic basil marinara and some Daiya dairy-free mozzarella, and baked for 15 minutes until the cheese melted.

I served the eggplant and marinara over some whole-wheat pasta, and decided I could eat that dish ALL DAY LONG. Mwah! SO good!

Fresh eggplant is SO much more delicious than the frozen varieties! It tasted so fresh, but was so easy to make. And, regarding non-dairy cheese – I’ve tried quite a few brands, all of which have disappointed me. But this Daiya brand – I have found a winner! It feels a bit more moist than typical shredded cheese, but melted and stretched just like dairy cheese, and tasted wonderful! It almost had more of a parmesan taste to it, but that was fine with me. Daiya vegan cheeses are casein-free, dairy-free, have no cholesterol or trans-fats, all natural, and free of common allergens like soy, gluten, lactose, and others. Thumbs up!

I was drooling as everything came together with this meal and as such, didn’t take the time to get a picture – but this meal is definitely going into my weekly rotation!

[recipe-show recipe=italian-eggplant-over-pasta]