Sweet Vegetable Lasagna
Once you try my version of this classic Italian dish, you’ll never look at lasagna the same way again. Guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser, be sure to make an extra pan and freeze it. Lasagna will keep in the freezer for several weeks – much longer than it lasts on your table.
When using “no-boil” lasagna noodles, it’s crucial to have sufficient liquid levels in your filling ingredients. The tofu filling, spinach, and tomatoes work together to add the necessary liquid element here.
8-10 sheets of no-boil lasagna noodles
2-3 small zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise
1-2 small yellow summer squash, sliced thinly lengthwise
6 tomatoes, cooked, skinned, and seeded (or 1 c. canned whole tomatoes)
2 c. julienned parsnips
1 c. julienned carrots
3 c. baby spinach, coarsely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. coarsely chopped basil, reserved
Béchamel Sauce Ingredients:
6 T. vegan margarine (or unsalted butter)
6 T. unbleached flour
3 c. unsweetened soy milk (or 2% dairy)
Salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg
Tofu Filling Ingredients:
1 block extra firm tofu, drained of its water
3 T. nutritional yeast (or 1/2 c. freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, optional)
1/2 c. chopped parsley
1/2 t. grated nutmeg
1 t. salt
Drizzle olive oil over the bottom of an 8 X 8 baking dish and set aside.
1. Prepare béchamel sauce:
Heat soy or dairy milk until hot but not boiling. (You can add room temperature milk, but heating speeds up the cooking process and in my experience, makes for a smoother sauce.) Melt margarine in a saucepan but do not let it brown. Slowly whisk in flour until you have a smooth roux, continue whisking for a minute or two and begin adding the hot milk. Cook and stir constantly until the sauce thickens and is creamy but not runny. Season to taste and set aside.
2. Prepare tofu filling:
Crumble drained tofu into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix everything together with a fork. Season the mixture and set aside.
3. Prepare vegetables:
Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Saute the parsnips and carrots for 5-8 minutes just until crisp tender. Add both the zucchini and squash and toss, just to heat the vegetables through. Remove from heat.
4. Assemble lasagna:
Spread about 1/2 cup of the tomatoes over the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with two sheets of lasagna noodles. Add a layer of vegetables, a few more spoonfuls of tomato, and spread about 1/2 c. of béchamel sauce over this layer.
Add a second layer of pasta, alternating the direction of the layers. Top this pasta layer with the tofu filling. Next do a layer of fresh spinach, add a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and top with yet a third layer of pasta. Add more of the vegetable mixture, a few dollops of the cooked tomato, a little more béchamel, and cover with two more sheets of pasta.
Top the casserole off with a nice cover of béchamel sauce, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and the chopped fresh basil. Finally, spoon a little more of the tomato mixture around the sides of the lasagna.
Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are easily pierced with a knife. If desired, top with remaining béchamel sauce and serve the lasagna hot.
Note: Béchamel sauce will thicken while it rests but a gentle reheating should loosen it up. If necessary, add very small amounts of milk, water, or stock until you regain the desired consistency.
I really appreciate knowing how to make a béchamel sauce because it can be used in so many other dishes and in this recipe, it makes what’s normally a “heavy” dish so light.
If you dislike the flavor of nutmeg, simply omit it and add an extra few turns from the pepper mill. Remember to always use a light hand and taste your food when you add seasonings.