Going Vegan: Italian for vegans- Homemade Lasagna

Going Vegan: Italian for vegans- Homemade Lasagna

Emma Roberts

Emma Roberts

Some say that Italian cuisine is the ultimate comfort food, and who could blame them? I might not be Italian, but I can definitely agree with that statement. I love to cook Italian food because the possibilities are endless when it comes to the ingredients I can use in a single dish. Then again, you may be thinking while reading this article about vegan recipes, “Italian food is all about cheese and meat and – stuff that’s not vegan!” (Some also say that Olive Garden is “authentic Italian” food.)

But take a look at all the pasta dishes in traditional Italian recipes, many of which are chock-full of fresh veggies! In fact, the Italians have an entire course called “Contorno,” which is dedicated to just vegetables.

Italian cooking culture is all about fresh everything, especially vegetables. If you look at some classic dishes, like Pasta Primavera, it is almost like looking into a rainbow of colors because of all the veggies included in the recipe: zucchinis, broccoli, asparagus – oh my! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce, my skeptical-eating friends. The Italian diet emphasizes healthy fats, fruits and veggies. Unlike many Americans, who are likely to eat a lot of unhealthy fast food, traditional Italian dishes focus on healthy fats (from fish, for example) and fresh vegetables. The Italians love cooking because it brings family and friends together. It’s all about leisure, good times and good food.

Speaking of good times and good Italian food, who doesn’t love good, homemade lasagna, with all that meat, sauce and pasta all covered in cheese? Whoops. I guess that isn’t vegan at all, is it? But with a few tweaks here and there, I turned this meat and cheese lover’s dish into a vegan’s dream.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

•    2 tablespoons olive oil
•    1 1/2 cups chopped onion
•    3 tablespoons minced garlic
•    4 (14 1/2 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
•    1/3 cup tomato paste
•    1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
•    1/2 cup chopped parsley
•    1 teaspoon salt
•    1 teaspoon ground black pepper
•    1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
•     2 pounds firm tofu
•     2 tablespoons minced garlic
•    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
•    1/4 cup chopped parsley
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    ground black pepper to taste
•     3 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

Here’s what you’re going to do:

1.    Make the sauce: In a large, heavy saucepan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Place the onions in the saucepan and sauté them until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Cook 5 minutes more.
2.    Place the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and parsley in the saucepan. Stir well, turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer covered for 1 hour. Add the salt and pepper.
3.    While the sauce is cooking, bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil. Boil the lasagna noodles for 9 minutes, then drain and rinse well.
4.    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).
5.    Place the tofu blocks in a large bowl. Add the garlic, basil and parsley. Add the salt and pepper and mash all the ingredients together by squeezing pieces of tofu through your fingers. Mix well.
6.    Assemble the lasagna: Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch casserole pan. Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles, sprinkle one-third of the tofu mixture over the noodles. Distribute the spinach evenly over the tofu. Next ladle 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce over the tofu and top it with another layer of the noodles. Then sprinkle another 1/3 of the tofu mixture over the noodles, top the tofu with 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce and place a final layer of noodles over the tomato sauce. Finally, top the noodles with the final 1/3 of the tofu and spread the remaining tomato sauce over everything.
7.    Cover the pan with foil and bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy.