Vegan Lentil Lasagna Masala

I’ll just say this right at the top of the post, the only way to make lasagna simply is to buy it frozen or by using a ton of packaged ingredients. If you don’t have the time or patience, those are your options. But if you feel like blasting some old school grunge rock, chick rock or hip hop (maybe that’s just me??) and getting your cook on, might I recommend taking your time to make a killer vegan lasagna?

What I like to do is divide this up into three parts: the sauce, the filling and the cheese. I know it seems strange to consider vegan cheese an element of a proper lasagna but sometimes I like to whip up a b√©chamel with nut milk and nutritional yeast. But that’s any vegan lasagna in a nutshell, so let’s get started.

This meal was my husband’s choice for his Midnight Tokyo Diner night. He asked for lasagna and I decided to with a lentil lasagna masala because, well because Indian flavors are incredible and I am a wee bit obsessed.

The Sauce

The choice is yours, but I like to get the tomato sauce started first because if you use fresh tomatoes, which I highly recommend, you’ll need time to let it reduce and thicken. I kept this sauce fairly simple, using shallots, garlic, a small spicy red pepper for heat, tomato paste and tomatoes. Don’t forget herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary or marjoram because they add a nice flavor that’ll remind you why sometimes a good red sauce is all you need, plus curry, ginger, garam masala and cardamom. It’s simple for a vegan lasagna, but I promise the filling has plenty of flavor and so does this spicy tomato sauce. In fact, I think it could also be really great as a pizza sauce or an arrabbiata sauce for your next pasta night.

Saute the shallots and pepper until fragrant and then add the garlic and tomato paste. Stir until it starts to smoke and slowly add the chopped tomatoes, or canned if that’s your jam. When the tomatoes start to break down, add a little water or broth or wine and let it simmer so it can begin to reduce. Reduce until the sauce is nice and thick, checking for flavor as you go.

The Filling

For the filling, I went with basic vegetables such as onion, bell pepper, garlic, spinach and mushrooms. For the vegan “meat” I went for lentils because I thought it would suit the taste profile I was going for better. And, it did. And the best part of all? I did it all in the same skillet!

Get the mushrooms going first and then add the onion, pepper and garlic. When they’re all cooked how you like them, add the lentils and water until just about done, then add the spinach. I used frozen because I’m not a big spinach fan and they keep a lot longer. When the filling is done, set aside and prepare to assemble.

Pop in the oven on 200/400 for about 30 minutes, adding the vegan cheese during the last ten minutes of cooking. If you want the cheese bubbly and crisp, crank the oven up for the last few minutes of cooking.

The Cheese (sorta)

In case you’re wondering, I’m in love with my new oven and if you look really close, you can see my reflection in there…somewhere.

Make sure you check the package of your lasagna noodles because for some reason some of them contain egg or milk powder. How else will they keep you addicted enough to add it to everything you eat?

Just…always read the labels before you buy! End of my PSA, I promise!

Vegan Lasagna…with Ricotta!!!

One of the few things I did miss about going vegan was lasagna without ricotta cheese which is strange because it is the ONLY time I like the stuff, and because I didn’t miss any other cheese products. Then I found a recipe for vegan ricotta. My first instinct was gross because personally, I don’t feel all the ‘cheese love’ for vegan cheese products and I’m okay without it in my diet.

But there is something about lasagna that just requires ricotta cheese and now that I’ve had it, I can pass along the knowledge to you.

Let’s get right into it, starting with the tofu ricotta!

What you’ll need:

Firm tofu (1 brick)
Nutritional yeast (2-3 tbsp. per brick)
Salt & black pepper
Vegan Parmesan

Pop those ingredients in a food processor until it is thick like ricotta, it will also have a slightly grainy texture, much like ricotta. Don’t over blend it. Once the tofu ricotta reached the perfect consistency, I tossed it with chopped spinach.

It was thick and creamy and I had to drop it by spoonfuls and spread it with the back of a spoon!

The rest of the vegan lasagna is a blend of crimini & button mushrooms, onions, bell pepper and garlic PLUS a homemade tomato sauce with fresh basil and oregano! Layer it up and pop it in the oven for 40-55 minutes depending on your oven and you are good to go.

This is another area where you can experiment with different vegetables and proteins to get plenty of different idea from a single recipe. I was in a traditional mood so I kept it simple here.

As you can see it turned out pretty well, staying in one piece during the cutting process.

If I could pick apart anything with this recipe it would be the cheese. I used it because this was a traditional vegan lasagna but I still am not a fan and I could have done without all of it, minus the vegan parm. It isn’t melty enough and I don’t like the taste of it but since the rest of the lasagna was so flavorful it didn’t bother me.

Much.

This was an amazing way to satisfy my desire for lasagna but it is time intensive if you make everything the way I did so I don’t imagine I’ll do it often but it was definitely worth the effort.