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Vegan pesto has been such a gift for me. I used to eat regular pesto on just about everything. I am slightly obsessed with basil and many other fresh herbs from my garden. Over time I was feeling the effects of too much dairy in my diet. As I could not give up my pesto, I needed the right recipe that swapped out the parmesan cheese for something just as funky and tasty. Aged miso and nutritional yeast are two vegan ingredients that fit the bill.
Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, are bothersome on occasion. This is especially true for those suffering from arthritis. I decided to stop eating lasagna until I could find a way to make it without cheese and tomatoes. Then, I remembered that I made an authentic Italian lasagna once from scratch, even the noodles. It was an all-day project, but it was so worth it.
Authentic Italian lasagna is not what we have come to know in the states. It is often fresh sheets of pasta layered between a bechamel sauce, plenty of fresh herbs, perhaps some cheese, and maybe some ground beef or greens. I make a similar white lasagna with a filling of vegetables, homemade vegan cheese, and fresh herbs in my basil and miso-based pesto. Dairy and nightshades are not missed.
This vegan pesto lasagna recipe is pretty easy to make if you have an hour to set aside for preparing and baking. The cashew cheese will need time for the nuts to soak. You can make that ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- 1-1/2 cups raw cashews
- 1 TBS apple cider vinegar unfiltered
- 2 TBS ant non-dairy nut or seed milk
- 2 tsps sea salt
- 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup walnuts lightly toasted
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 TBS white miso
- 1 TBS nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp sea salt more if needed
- 1/2 lemon squeezed juice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 box any lasagna noodles
- 2 tsps sea salt
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1-1/2 TBS olive oil more if needed
- 1 small bunch kale chopped
- 1 bunch fresh parsley minced
- 1/4 cup diced tomatoes optional
- 2 cups vegan ricotta from this recipe
- 1 cup vegan pesto from this recipe
- Assemble all your ingredients before you begin.
- Place the cashews in a bowl and cover them with filtered water. Soak for 4 or more hours.
- Drain the cashews and place them in a food processor. Add the vinegar, non-dairy milk, and salt. Process until mostly smooth with a few chunky bits.
- Place the basil, walnuts, garlic, miso, nutritional yeast, pepper, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until you have a coarse but grainy and consistent paste. Scrape down the sides of the processor if needed.
- Adjust the salt and pepper seasoning to taste. Check the seasoning and add more ground pepper and salt if needed.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Season the water generously with salt. Add the lasagna noodles and cook until just al dente. Drain the noodles in a colander and give a quick rinse in cool water to stop the cooking.
- Slice the zucchini into long thin planks. In a skillet on medium heat, add the oil and cook the zucchini until just tender, approximately 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
- Chop the kale into bite-sized pieces. Mince the parsley. In a mixing bowl, combine the cashew ricotta with the kale and parsley.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Take a square or rectangular glass baking dish and lightly oil the bottom and sides. Assemble the lasagna: one layer of noodles, 1/4 quarter of the pesto, 1/4 of the ricotta, and 1/3 of the zucchini. Repeat until you have 4 layers of pasta. The top layer of noodles will get 1/4 of the pesto and 1/4 of the ricotta. Tope the entire lasagna with the diced tomatoes.
- Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil. Place it in the oven and bake for 35 minutes until bubbling.
- Allow the lasagna to cool slightly so it will set up before digging into it. Enjoy while still warm.
Notes and Tips
Be sure to check the cooking instruction on the box of lasagna noodles. Wheat noodles will cook differently from gluten-free noodles, such as rice, cassava, or bean noodles. You want to cook the pasta until almost done. They will continue to cook in the oven.
If you have any leftover pesto, you can freeze it in a resealable baggie for up to 4 months.
Substitutions and Shortcuts
You don’t have to use zucchini in the recipe. You can use yellow summer squash, eggplant, or frozen and thawed artichoke leaves. Likewise, kale is optional. I sometimes substitute with spinach or arugula, depending on what is fresh or what I have in my fridge. You could even use frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained.
If you aren’t thrilled about vegan cheese, this lasagna can be made with a non-dairy bechamel sauce for the creamy layer.
For the pesto, feel free to substitute pine nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds for the walnuts in the recipe.
There are no-boil lasagna noodles that can help you cut out a step. I haven’t tried these in this vegan recipe because I am not sure if there is enough moisture in the dish.
Two other shortcuts would be to use packaged vegan ricotta cheese and jarred vegan pesto.
When I serve lasagna, it is almost always accompanied by a big salad with fresh greens, cucumbers, olives, and chickpeas with a simple lemon vinaigrette.
If you are feeding non-vegans, there is a super easy cevapi recipe that will go nicely with lasagna. Cevapi are ground meat and garlic sausage patties or meatballs native to the Balkans.