Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vegan Neapolitan Lasagna

My hubby loves it when I make Italian food. Since I love it too, I don’t mind complying with those requests. One of his favorite foods is Neapolitan lasagna. It is such a simple dish when he wanted it for Christmas I felt a little guilty because it isn’t much work. But hey, since that is what he wanted who was I to say no.

The last time I made tofu ricotta the taste was so good I knew I was finished playing around with the seasonings. However, the texture was not quite right. This time we have a winner in terms of both texture and flavor. I knew I was finished changing it when my husband asked me to make another one so he could eat it for lunch this week with a big salad. Here is what I made for Christmas dinner.

Vegan Neapolitan LasagnaServes 8

5 ½ cups meaty tomato sauce
12 whole-wheat lasagna noodles
Vegan Parmesan cheese for topping - optional

Tofu Ricotta Ingredients:
½ cup raw cashews, ground
28 ounces firm water packed tofu, drained and crumbled
2 tablespoons yellow miso
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 lemon, zested
1 ½ teaspoons oregano, dried
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
4 teaspoons onion flakes
20 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
4 tablespoons flour (I have used both whole-wheat and brown rice flours and both work fine)

Prepare the sauce, and cool a little to make it easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Get out two loaf pans and line them with parchment paper to make it easier to get the lasagna out of the pan after baking.

Cook the lasagna noodles until they are partially cooked, about ½ to 2/3 done. By partially cooking the noodles they will finish cooking in the pan and will absorb any excess liquid making the lasagna more firm and easier to slice.

Place all the ingredients for the tofu ricotta in your food processor and process until combined. My food processor has a 14-cup capacity. If your processor is smaller you may want to make the ricotta in two batches.

Now it is time to layer the lasagna. I started with ½ cup of the tomato sauce, then two lasagna noodles followed by 1/6 of the tofu ricotta. Continue to layer in that order ending with tomato sauce. I had three layers of noodles and ricotta and 4 layers of sauce.

Cover the pans with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Take the lasagna out of the oven and uncover the pans. Insert a paring knife into the lasagna to make certain the noodle are tender. Top the lasagna with vegan parmesan (if using) and bake another 15 minutes. Then allow the lasagna to cool for 15 minutes to make it easier to remove from the pan and to slice.

I placed the aluminum foil back on top of the pan and flipped the lasagna out. Then inverted it to a platter. The lasagna held together beautifully. Adding the flour to the ricotta made a huge difference in the texture. It was just as firm as a layer of dairy ricotta, only it was healthy. I love it when an experiment works this well.

Nutritional Information (without optional vegan parmesan):
Amount Per Serving
Calories - 492.69
Calories From Fat (21%) - 105.69

Total Fat - 12.67g
Saturated Fat - 1.60g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 1,308.45mg
Potassium - 4,696.09mg
Total Carbohydrates - 70.02g
Fiber - 23.00g
Sugar - 9.89g
Protein - 43.61g

Hands down this is the best vegan lasagna I have made yet. The tofu ricotta was firm, but not too firm. This is definitely my new go to lasagna recipe. When my hubby asked me to make more I said I could make a variation (like artichoke or mushroom) and very quickly said he wanted the spinach version. It looks like there will be some repeats in my future.

A special thank you to Rose at Dandelion for posting the idea of using a loaf pan for lasagna. Such a brilliant idea, thanks again for sharing. It works beautifully to make a small lasagna. I still need to make your delicata squash lasagna. It looks beautiful and sounds amazing.

Unrelated Note:
I am off now to finish dinner for tonight. I will be back later with those recipes. We decided to make posole, salad and a documented version of the queso dip from Thursday.


  1. That lasagna looks amazing! I'm following your recipe next time I make lasagna.

    I like that you used miso in the tofu must be scrumptious, and it looks so beautiful, like a real celebration dinner...the colors of the Italian flag too!

  2. Rose,

    Thanks! :) The hubby loved it, so I think you and John will like it too. Even the omni's enjoyed it.

    I didn't think about the Italian flag until you mentioned it, but you are right. Nice call.

    I wanted to add diced artichoke hearts to the next one, but the hubby doesn't want me to "mess with the recipe", as he puts it. If you try any variations please let me know what they are.

    talk to you later,

  3. The artichokes sound delish too!

  4. Hi, Alicia. What a beautiful looking lasagna. Amazing that you can actually flip and invert a lasagna! And a 14 cup capacity food processor? That's huge! Wow, it sounds as if you had a delicious dinner, and I'm so glad your husband was happy too. That's a wonderful bonus.

  5. Rose,

    I think the artichokes would be great. It would make the filling like spinach and artichoke dip. How could that be bad?


    My food processor is one of the big Cuisinarts. I think they make an even larger capacity one now. Even though there are only two of us I really do need all the capacity. When you need to upgrade I would suggest a big processor. My prior version was a 7 cup and this one is much more useful.

    I was shocked that I could flip and invert the lasagna too. They only reason I did it was for the photo, but it worked great.

    I need to post the other dishes from Christmas dinner. I am so far behind at posting it isn't funny.

    talk to you later, loved your candy cake coffee cake!

  6. What a great meal for Christmas with all that red and green! Your ricotta sounds superb--I am going to try it next time I make lasagna :)

  7. Ricki,

    Thanks! I hope the ricotta works as well for you. We were quite pleased with the results.


  8. Wow! That lasagna looks absolutely amazing! And I can't stop saying "Wow" because I love all the ingredients you used. It sounds so delicious. I made lasagna with tofu before and my famiy loved it. They've kept asking me to make again and I've been too busy to cook. I'm so glad you posted this recipe because it sounds simple enough for me to give it a try. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe, Alicia!

  9. Oraphan,

    I am so glad you like the recipe. The recipe exceeded my expectations. I think your family will like this version too.

    I am glad you have a little free time now. You must have been swamped for a while since you haven't been around much. I hope you get a break soon.

    Happy holidays and talk to you soon,

  10. That looks SO good. I love lasagna, and that filling would be perfect for manicotti too! Thank you so much for sharing!

  11. Hi Alicia,

    It's me again! I came back to let you know that I decided to make this lasagna for the New Year's Party at my uncle's. I believe everyone will love it, thanks for the inspiration!

    I have been busy working like crazy, I had only last Friday off and I've been working every single day. I have to work both days this weekend but the store is closed early at 4 pm so I have more time to relax and read my favorite food blogs. My next day-off will be Tuesday so I'm planning on reading your blog all day!

    p.s. I made seitan on 12/14, it came out too soft but I used the recipe from the ppk. I didn't use your recipe because I didn't have wheat bread that day. I'll try your recipe on Tuesday and post about it:)

  12. Heather,

    I am so glad you like the sound of it. I think you are right the ricotta would be great in manicotti too.


    Wow, you have been busy working. I am glad you are going to be off on Tuesday at least. I hope you get a bit more of a break soon.

    You seitan came out too soft? Normally seitan is too firm. What cooking method did you use? Did the recipe call for simmering the seitan? That was the only time mine was too soft.

    Try to relax and get some rest, sounds like you need it,

  13. Alicia, This isn't really related to your food - I just wanted to say it's such a pleasure to read your comments back to people. Your kindness shines through; you sound like such a lovely, friendly person. Have a restful night. :)

  14. blessedmama,

    What a sweet thing to say. Thank you so much! You brightened my morning. :)

    talk to you soon,

  15. Shenandoah,

    Thanks! :) We were quite pleased with it. The little bit of flour made a big difference in terms of texture of the ricotta.


  16. Thank you! It looks like your experimentation with the tofu ricotta has paid off!

  17. My oven "died" so anything baked is out of the question until I can afford a new stove. I will have to remember to come back to this recipe when I get my new stove. I've been married for 22 years and this will be the first time I've picked out my own stove! Hard to believe, isn't it? There was one in our apartment, one in the first house we bought, and then my parents gave me their old one when they upgraded and we had this house built.

    Anyway, all that rambling was to say, this looks too amazing to miss out on! Thanks for sharing all of your kitchen adventures!

  18. tweisz,

    I hope you like it as much as we did.


    I was very pleased with my tofu experimentation. The hubby thinks my tofu lasagna is perfect now, so that is saying something (he is picky).


    Sorry to hear about your stove. I would recommend getting a convection oven since you are shopping. I have had mine for about 7 years and I love it.

    Check to see if you have a Sears Outlet near you. I found a beautitful stainless range with convection oven for 45% of what it cost anywhere else and it came with a full warranty. A friend suggested the Sears Outlet to us and we were blown away by the selection and the savings. I hope you have one near you.


  19. i KNEW you were going to get tons of feedback on this. i think that it probably gives a lot of vegans/vegetarians that this kind of food isnt lost to them, there are alternatives. jeez this looks good. you take excellent pictures Alicia

  20. Michelle,

    Thanks! I didn't expect this to be so popular. I should check with you on what recipes to work on.

    I was quite pleased with both the taste and the nutritionals. This is so much healthier than regular lasagna.

    Rose's idea of using a loaf pan also worked really well. Since there are just the two of you I suggest you try making a small lasagna. I will be using a loaf pan from now on it worked so well.

    talk to you later,

  21. Yes, I used the recipe called for simmering because I thought it sounds easy for me but I didn't expect it to be too soft.

    I'll email you if I have any question about making seitan (your recipe).

    Thanks, Alicia! Talk to you later:)

  22. Oraphan,

    If you have any seitan questions feel free to ask.

    talk to you later,

  23. Alicia, do you know whether vegan tofu freezes as well as regular tofu?

  24. Good Morning Laura,

    I am guessing that your question is how does vegan lasagna freeze compared to regular lasagna. I have not frozen any yet so I am just guessing. But since freezing and defrosting tofu changes the texture of the tofu (making it more firm) the same thing will happen if it is lasagna form.

    When I am making this for only Dan and I, I make a half recipe and he happily takes the leftover to work for lunch (in reheats in the microwave very well). This is one of his favorite recipes.

    If that wasn't your question please let me know,

  25. Yes that is what I meant, thanks! (I wrote that kind of early this morning) I normally make extra lasagna and freeze it, after cooking. If I do this with your recipe, I'll let you know how it turns out.

  26. Laura,

    It was early here too. I was seriously wondering if you knew something about tofu that I didn't. Then I figured out what you must have meant. It made me giggle since it was totally something I would do early in the morning. I am not a morning person in the slightest. Thanks for the starting my day off right! ;)


  27. I'm glad I made you smile! I've been doing lots of batty stuff lately and trying to keep my sense of humor through it all. Sometimes I wonder - am I 53 or 73?

    I chickened out on the vegan lasagna, since I was making a large lasagna for a group of women and small one for DH and myself. I did use tofu along with lowfat ricotta and cottage cheese, but here's another example of the above issue--I forgot to squeeze the water out of the frozen/thawed spinach! Thank goodness I added some ww flour and used half-cooked noodles. For ours I used ww noodles and put an eggplant/onion mixture just under the top layer; after cooking, I sprinkled a little parmesan and nutritional yeast on top. I used a loaf pan for the first time and although I served the lasagna from the pan, I like the way it turned out and would do that again. The ladies will get regular noodles and a bit more cheese in theirs. My next lasagna will definitely be vegan, as I'm anxious to try your recipe. Thanks for all your great ideas.

  28. Laura,

    I do "batty" things so often we have made up a saying about it. Both the hubby and I will say "my blonde roots are showing" (and I have very dark brunette hair). I understand how things happen. At least it always does at our house.

    Feeding vegan food to non-vegans is always a giant question mark. I am never certain how it will be received. Since my 80 year old parents like this I think it would fly with your friends too. But you can never be certain.

    Isn't the loaf pan a brilliant idea? I wish it was mine, but it wasn't. We have Rose to thank for that.

    Since you are obviously trying to move away from meat and dairy, if you have any questions please feel free to email me. I do check my email often and I am happy to help and share the things we tried that worked well, and not so well.

    Thanks for sharing what happened. I can't wait to hear what you think of the all-vegan lasagna.

    have a great evening,

  29. Hi, Ali,
    This is made for dinner & Ryan's baking it while I have a meeting. Fingers crossed that it turns out amazing. :)

    I tried the spinach tofu ricotta as I was layering--ridiculously delicious, by the way--and was thinking that it might be easy to "change up" this recipe into one of those two-sauce Italian ziti pasta dishes--you know, the ones with alfredo and marinara sauce? Or pesto and marinara sauce? I'd probably use medium tofu rather than firm so that it would be "saucier" than stiff.

    Also, I think the spinach ricotta would make a fabulous base for a wrap or protein addition to a salad. I had about 1/2 a cup leftover from making the lasagna; so I'm going to try this later on in the week.


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