Vegan (dairy-free), gluten-free lasagna, with complete protein. Yet . . . yum!

Our recent discovery of “cashew cheese” via a fantastic dinner at Blossom (a vegan restaurant in NYC) led me to think maybe I could actually make a lasagna that would taste and mouth-feel like real lasagna. Although I don’t live entirely vegan -- I do eat humanely- and locally-raised eggs, chicken, beef, shrimp, and lamb -- I lean vegan pretty hard. And since I’m allergic to milk and intolerant of gluten, lasagna’s a tough gig.

But I managed it this week! This lasagna was absolutely delicious. And because it mixes brown rice noodles and beans, it offers a complete protein in a single dish. Even the mate, who can eat real lasagna, said it was fantastic. Okay, to be fair, he did say the beans might be “a protein too far” (he thinks I’m a little too obsessive about complete proteins) but I’ve solved that in this recipe by suggesting you just mash them more than I did. (He didn’t object to the mashed beans, just one whole bean that sort of startled him in the middle of dinner. I think it startled him though because he didn’t realize he was eating a dish based on rice and beans.)

A couple of notes:

  • Cashew cheese is basically a fermented cashew cream. You can find instructions for it all over the internet. I take about 1.5 cups of raw, unsalted cashews, soak them in a lot of lukewarm water for about 3 hours, rinse them well, put them in the blender with about a half-cup of water, add 1 probiotic tablet (I use specifically gluten- and dairy-free tablets), and blend the crap out of it in the blender for 5-10 minutes until I get a nice cream. I go for the consistency of thick maple syrup. Then I put the cream in a large glass bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and put it in the oven with the oven light on, overnight. About 24 hours later this results in a non-dairy “cheese” that’s high in protein and high in yum. You can add chopped chives or whatever at that point. It tastes and feels basically like ricotta. (If you want to make “cream cheese,” just start with a thicker consistency.)
  • Tomato sauce: You can, of course, use whatever tomato sauce you want in a lasagna, but I make my own. My tomato sauce is heavy on onions and garlic (sauteed in a lot of olive oil) and also includes Muir Glen fire-roasted pureed tomatoes and fire-roasted chopped tomatoes, dried basil and oregano, bay leaves, brown sugar, kosher salt, and red wine.

 

Ingredients:

  • as much as 2 cups of good quality olive oil
  • about 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 box brown rice lasagna noodles
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 medium green or yellow squash (zucchini)
  • 4 cups or so of high quality, onion-heavy tomato sauce
  • 1.5 cup of cashew cheese
  • 1 small can of white beans (I used great northern, but you could use any white bean for this)

 

Directions:

  1. Follow the directions for cooking the lasagna noodles. Salt the cooking water, and remember to put about a tablespoon of oil in the cooking water to keep the noodles from sticking together.

  2. Heat up your sauce if it is not already hot.

  3. Meanwhile, cook the eggplant and squash like this: wash and dry well. Slice, just before cooking, to pieces that are about a 1/4 inch thick. (I did rounds for the eggplant and oblongs for the squash.) Heat about 1/8 inch of olive oil in a good heavy pan and cook the vegs one side at a time until golden brown, throwing a bit of salt on at the start of cooking. The eggplant will require a LOT of oil. Don’t be cheap with the oil. Remove the vegs to a plate as they are done.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  5. Rinse the beans well (until the water runs clear). Drain them of water and then mash them up (with a fork or potato masher) until they reach a paste consistency.

  6. Make lasagna layers in a baking dish. I did this: sauce, cooked noodle, white bean mash, eggplant, cashew cheese, more sauce, noodle, squash, more sauce. You can of course layer however you wish.

  7. Cook for about 60 minutes. (You can cook for longer without harm.)

It may sound from this like there’s not much “cheese” in this, and it is true, but the oil-laden eggplant and squash plus the white bean mash, along with one layer of cashew cheese, definitely gave it enough creamy-feeling ingredients to make it taste and feel like a lasagna should.

 

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