Really, who knew that vegan lasagna that contains not a bit of cheese (dairy cheese that is) could be so absolutely delicious? Because it was delicious. And it seemed cheesy.
How did I accomplish this, you ask? Well, after David made a request for some lasagna I got busy researching. I already had some gluten-free no-boil (yes!) lasagna noodles in the pantry and some leftover spicy tomato sauce from my favorite Alex Guarnaschelli recipe. I scoured the internet looking at vegan recipes, most of which used some tofu-based concoction instead of the usual ricotta. Since David and I try not to overdo the soy I nixed those. Finally I found this recipe, a vegan lasagna with basil cashew “cheeze”.
Raw cashews, soaked and pulverized into “cream” are a staple of vegan cooking, both savory and sweet. This was the first time I used them in this way. The idea is to create a creamy ingredient that mimics ricotta. This is achieved by processing a cup of raw, soaked cashews, lemon juice, lots of basil, a bit of dijon mustard and nutritional yeast flakes in the processor:
The nutritional yeast flakes are known not only for providing some essential B12 vitamins but for imparting a “cheesy” flavor to vegan dishes. Here’s what the cashew basil “cheeze” looks like all ready for the casserole:
The texture is pretty close to ricotta, the basil gives that authentic Italian taste and the yeasts flakes do taste kind of cheesy. It’s pretty yummy on its own.
The next step (which I forgot to photograph) is sautéing up some chopped onion, garlic, zucchini, red pepper and cremini mushrooms until they are soft. The casserole is layered in the classic way–sauce, noodles, “cheeze”, veggies, repeat. I sprinkled a cup of non-dairy shredded vegan mozzarella on top. Admittedly this cheese doesn’t add much flavor-wise but it makes the dish actually look like lasagna.
We served this dish with a side salad:
Our lasagna didn’t hold together all that well upon serving, but I think it will do better when reheated. This dish was so flavorful, and if I didn’t know how it was made I would never suspect that it wasn’t a real veggie lasagna. The cashew basil cheeze did its job adding a creamy texture, and tender crisp veggies made for some satisfying heft. Our version was pretty spicy because our tomato sauce recipe has lots of red pepper flakes but the dish would be fine with whatever marinara you have on hand. Neither of us left the table hungry, although this version is probably far less caloric than a typical lasagna. We’re looking forward to having it again tonight. A definite keeper.
As we are well into our second month of vegetarian/vegan eating I’ve finally amassed lots of pantry items and condiments typically used in this cuisine. I’m happy to report that my visits to Whole Foods are down to a respectable every other day. Hmmm. That frees up some time to do…well, I don’ t know yet, but I’ll be back to report about it when I figure it out.