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Better Than Classic Lasagna

Posted By Toni Fiore On May 26, 2007 @ 3:05 pm In Pasta | 15 Comments

Better Than Classic Lasagna

This is a glorious layering of pasta, light and tasty tofu “cheese,” savory “beefy” crumbles, and a creamy béchamel sauce that can be prepared two ways – either with or without dairy ingredients. I know you’ll love the scrumptious flavors and textures of this high-protein classic.

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Lasagna Ingredients:
8-10 sheets of no-boil lasagna noodles
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c. coarsely chopped basil leaves (reserve 1/4 cup)

Béchamel Sauce Ingredients:
6 T. vegan margarine, or olive oil, or unsalted butter
6 T. unbleached flour
3 c. unsweetened soy milk (or 2% dairy milk)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg

Tofu “Cheese” Layer:
1 block extra firm tofu, drained well
1/2 c. vegan Parmesan-style cheese (or freshly grated Pecorino Romano), optional
1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 c. chopped spinach
1/2 t. grated nutmeg
1 t. salt

“Beefy” crumbles Layer:
1 pkg. “beef”-style crumbles
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 onion, chopped into 1/4″ dice
3 t. dried oregano
2 T. chopped San Marzano tomatoes or prepared sauce (1/2 cup reserved for filling additional layer)
Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare:
First, drizzle olive oil over the bottom of an 8X8-inch baking dish and set aside.

Next, prepare the béchamel sauce by heating (soy)milk until hot but not boiling. You can do this in a microwave. (Milk at room temperature will work, but heating, in my experience, makes a smoother sauce.)

Melt the fat you’re using in a saucepan, but don’t let it burn or brown. Slowly whisk in the flour until you have a smooth roux. Continue whisking for a minute or two, then begin adding the hot (soy)milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and is creamy but not runny. Season with salt and pepper and the grated nutmeg, cover, and set aside.

Now prepare the tofu filling by crumbling the drained tofu into a bowl, work the tofu with your fingers until smooth – the texture should be similar to ricotta. Add all remaining ingredients, mix together with a fork until blended, season with salt, pepper, a bit more nutmeg, and set aside. (Hint: when preparing the dairy-free version, you can substitute 3 T. of nutritional yeast flakes as a tasty substitute for the vegan cheese or grated Romano.)

Finally, prepare the “beefy” crumbles, by heating olive oil over medium heat in a heavy saute pan. Add garlic and onions and stir and fry until they’re translucent – about five minutes, then add your oregano. Saute for a few minutes until the oregano becomes nicely aromatic. Add the crumbles and continue to stir fry until everything is browned and heated through. Add the two tablespoons of the tomatoes along with another sprinkling of olive oil and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Season and set aside.

To assemble:
Place all layer ingredients within reach. Start with a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles. Spoon “beef” mixture onto noodles, then some of the bechamel. Toss on some of the basil. Add another layer of noodle, then tofu mixture, basil and more bechamel sauce. Continue layering, ending with a layer of the 1/2 cup of reserved tomatoes, then place lasagna noodles on top. Spoon the remaining bechamel sauce over the top, making sure to cover the entire surface of the uncooked top layer of noodle.

Take about 1/4 cup of fresh water and pour around the sides of the casserole to bring the moisture content up a bit, drizzle additional olive oil over the top then cover with foil, and bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking the lasagna for another 15 minutes or so. The lasagna should be bubbling and the noodles cooked through. Remove from oven, sprinkle with reserved chopped basil, additional olive oil if desired, and serve.

This lasagna keeps well and is even more delicious the next day. I usually make two 8X8 inch pans and then freeze one for days when I’m too busy to cook but want a quick, hearty, and nutritious supper.

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