Mushroom Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta

So, here we go with our first recipe! This one was developed in what might have been the world’s tiniest kitchen about decade ago, and there have been some modifications here and there. However, the overall concept has remained the same: a light, but savory, plant-based lasagna that would be equally at home on your table during a blustery winter night or with the windows open on a warm, summer evening with a good glass of wine.

This lasagna has all the components you would expect out of a lasagna, but instead of using the typical ground beef or ground pork meat base, we use pungent and delicious shiitake mushrooms. Now, using shiitakes in an Italian dish might sound strange to some, but keep in mind that we have a lot of different flavors working here. The key is that you still want to be able to taste the woody, “mushroomy-ness” of the ‘shrooms without them getting overpowered by the tomato sauce and herbs. That makes this lasagna every bit as satisfying as the reliable classic.

For those of you who have explored vegan cuisine, you probably will recognize tofu ricotta. There are a lot of different versions of it out there on the internet and in cookbooks. Tofu already has a similar texture to ricotta when slapped in the food processor, so it’s easy to add in a few other ingredients to create the tang and umami that you would expect out of ricotta-based lasagna filling.

There are hosts of workarounds you can use to make this a quicker meal, such as using a jarred pasta sauce, or no-boil lasagna noodles. However, I’m going to give you the full rundown. My absolute favorite part of making this recipe is that you can nicely incorporate your home-grown herbs here. Ryan and I have had great success growing all kinds of herbs in a small box hydroponic garden on our window sill (Ryan will talk about this in a future post), so this recipe is a great place to toss in a few sprigs of fresh herbage!

To make your own sauce:

I like making a quick version of tomato sauce in the food processor using a few simple ingredients. This little ditty has less sugar than the sauce jars, and it helps to lighten the whole dish so that you have a nice balance of flavors.

As the starring ingredient, San Marzano tomatoes have been most successful for us in this recipe. They have a sweetness that perfectly balances out the natural acidity of tomatoes, and when cooked, these flavors are enhanced really nicely. But, if you don’t have access to San Marzanos, any canned, whole peeled tomatoes will work.

So, break out your food processor or blender. Pour in your tomatoes and add in a bunch of fresh garlic, a handful of fresh basil and oregano (from the hydroponic garden, of course!), some fennel seeds, and a little pour of good, extra virgin olive oil. Give everything a whirl until it’s smooth and silky and all the ingredients have been evenly incorporated into the sauce. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and set it aside. Then, rinse out your food processor because you will need it again to make the tofu ricotta.

To make the tofu ricotta:

We are super spoiled up here in Maine because we have access to wonderful Heiwa Tofu, which is my favorite. If you’re local, check it out! Oh, and if you’re in upstate New York, see if you can get your hands on Ithaca tofu. It’s also fab. If you don’t live in Maine, any extra firm tofu will do the trick. Take the block in your hands and break it into smaller chunks that will fit easily into your processor.

Now for the nuts! People do their tofu ricotta in many different ways, including simply using things like nutritional yeast and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to flavor their ricotta. However, a good faction of us like using nuts of different kinds to add a bit of texture that will hold up well through baking. Sunflower seeds are a classic with this (pictured above), but I make mine with cashews a little more than half the time. They add a rich, velvety texture to the cheese that’s really pleasing.

Then add in your sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), and salt. Give everything a spin until the texture is creamy and smooth, just like dairy ricotta. You can also blend some fresh basil into the ricotta, which is completely delicious, but be warned that it will tint your cheese green! Trust me, though, it’s worth it!

Set that aside for now, and let’s focus on the veg.

The veggies!

I like a good, veggie-packed lasagna, but the key is not to overpower all the delicate flavors. This is why I keep my medley fairly simple. Feel free to apply the “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” logic here and toss in whatever you like.

I start by sautéing the mushrooms in a skillet with some olive oil until they begin to brown. Then, add in a splash of white wine to give those ‘shrooms some gorgeous acidity. Be sure to reduce the wine until it’s mostly gone before adding in the next ingredients.

Then, toss in some baby spinach (or really any leafy green, such as kale or chard), and some cherry or sliced tomatoes, depending on what you have in your fridge or garden. Sauté until the spinach is just slightly wilted, as seen above, and get that concoction off the heat! Now it’s time to assemble!

Building your lasagna:

I get a lot of questions from friends about my lasagna noodle preference since I have a gluten allergy. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of them! My favorite, and the ones pictured here are Cappello’s. They are actually grain-free, created with almond flour. We’re not paleo, but I love the texture of these noodles and they are so easy to use. They come refrigerated in a little, air-tight package, so all you have to do is arrange them in your lasagna as desired and then stick it in the oven. Jovial also makes a tasty, rice-based option if you can’t find Cappello’s in your store. Or, if gluten isn’t a factor for you, any old lasagna noodle will work fabulously.

With all that said, prep your noodles according to the package directions. Then, using a cooking spray, or a paper towel, oil a 15 x 10 inch glass casserole dish. Depending on the dimensions of your noodles, place a solid layer in the bottom of your casserole dish, overlapping them slightly so that no filling escapes.

Using a rubber spatula, smooth a half-inch thick layer of the tofu ricotta over the noodles. Then, use about a third of your veggie medley to distribute evenly over the ricotta. Finally, using a ladle or deep-bowled spoon, add a layer of the tomato sauce. Follow that with another layer of noodles.

Repeat the layers until you’ve filled the pan, leaving a little bit of room to top the lasagna with the last bit of your tomato sauce. I like to top my lasagna with a bit of reserved fennel seeds, some fresh, chopped oregano, and salt and pepper to taste! Then, pop that sucker in the oven, and in an hour you’ll have a tasty mushroom lasagna that’s entirely plant-based! Mangia! Note: I am definitely not Italian. Neither is Ryan. Neither is Karl.

Mushroom Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 1.5 hours

Difficulty Level: Moderate

  • 15 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 8-10 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions.
  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14 oz. package extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds or raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tsps. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped with some sprigs reserved for garnish
  • 3 tsps. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°.

Prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions, rinse, and set aside for later.

Using a food processor, blend tomatoes, garlic, basil, 2 teaspoons of the oregano, 2 teaspoons of the fennel seeds, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil together until smooth and equally combined. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl, and rinse food processor.

Wrap a layer of paper towels around the tofu block and squeeze as much of the moisture out as possible. Tear the drained tofu into 4-5 smaller pieces and place them in the bowl of the food processor. Add nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds or cashews, lemon juice or vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt to your liking. Pulse in food processor until smooth and well combined. Set aside for use later.

Using a large sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat until mushrooms are beginning to lightly brown. Add white wine and reduce until only a small amount of liquid is remaining in the sauté pan. Add in the baby spinach and tomatoes, cooking until the spinach is just wilted and tomatoes are just softened. Set aside off the heat.

Grease a 15 x 10 inch glass casserole dish with olive oil. Arrange noodles in a layer on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them so as to create a solid surface. Using a rubber spatula, spread a liberal layer of tofu ricotta over the noodles. Next, add a thin layer of the vegetable medley on top of the tofu ricotta. Then, spread an even amount of tomato sauce over the vegetable medley. Repeat these layers until you have filled the pan, ending with a noodle layer and leaving just enough room for a final layer of sauce. Drizzle remaining olive oil over the lasagna, and top with remaining oregano, fennel seeds, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place lasagna dish on a large cookie sheet to prevent spills. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove aluminum foil and continue baking for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes, slice, and then serve, garnishing with remaining basil sprigs.

Ciao! Love, Ryan, LM, and Karl!

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