Lasagna is a popular Christmas Eve meal in many families. At this time of the year, my mother-in-law has a big tray of homemade lasagna stored in her freezer, along with other treats. This year, Christmas will be different due to COVID. Family gatherings will be smaller and my family is no exception. Some will stay home and some will be separated by an ocean with Zoom as the main source of contact. Regardless, we must do our best to maintain our seasonal heart-warming traditions.
Below is a great lasagna recipe that can be made vegetarian or vegan. Served with a crisp salad on the side, it is so delicious!
Thick veggie ragout
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1½ cups dry soy granules (TVP) hydrated with ¾ cup of boiling water (to replace ground meat)
- 1 big red onion, chopped fined
- 3-4 celery ribs with leaves, chopped small
- 3-4 garlic buds, minced
- 2 cups brown mushrooms such as shiitake or cremini, sliced (can sub. with diced zucchini or aubergine with skins on or a mix of both)
- 1 tbsp dried Italian mixed herbs
- 3 X 400 gram cans or jars of stewed tomatoes with juice
- 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsps tomato paste
- 2 tbsps miso paste (white or brown) or soya sauce
- ½ to 1 cup of water
- Salt and cracked pepper, to taste
- Option: a few splashes of red wine, for taste
- 4 cups tightly packed fresh spinach leaves, big stems removed
- ¼ cup fresh parsely, chopped
- 6 big fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 cup (250gr) ricotta cheese (vegan or dairy or a reduced fat kind)
- 2 tbsps grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast for vegan (this adds extra flavour)
- 1 to 2 tbsp plant milk
- Lasagna noodles of choice (I use the kind that doesn’t require boiling in water)
- Fresh mozarella, crumbled or shredded (vegan or dairy)
Oven: 180°C / 356 °F
Baking dish: 18 X 28cm (7 X 11 inches) rectangular dish
Measure and rinse the spinach leaves in sieve. Remove thick stems. Transfer leaves into a big pot on stove top set to medium-high heat. Cook stirring often until they are completely wilted. This will take a few minutes. Remove, strain the water with sieve and press down the leaves to eliminate excess water. You should now have 1 cup of wilted spinach leaves. Chop the cooked spinach and transfer to a medium-size bowl. Add the chopped parsley and basil leaves and toss with fork. Set this aside to cool on countertop.
For the thick veggie ragout:
I normally make this beforehand. This recipe makes more than you will need. You can chill or freeze leftovers and use it on any type of pasta dish.
In a medium-size bowl, measure 1½ cups of dry TPV granules (soy) and add ¾ cups of boiling water. Immediately fluff this up with a fork and this will give you 2 cups of hydrated TPV. Set this aside.
In a big deep saucepan, heat up the olive oil on medium heat. When the pan and oil are heated through, lower the heat a bit and add the onions, celery and garlic. Add a pinch of salt and cook stirring often until soft, about 3 minutes.
Add the mushrooms (or chopped veggies) and Italian herbs. Mix and lower the heat and cook with lid on, stirring from time to time, for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the hydrated TVP and mix. Cook for 3 more minutes whilst mixing.
Then add the stewed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste and miso paste. With lid on, cook on low heat for another 15 minutes stirring regularly. Add some water and continue to cook on low heat for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper. At the end, I sometimes add a splash or two of red wine for flavour (optional). Remove saucepan from heat and put lid on.
For the filling:
To the spinach, parsley and basil mixture, add the ricotta, the grated parmesan and 1 -2 tbsp plant milk. Mix with a fork until combined.
Assemble the lasagna one layer at a time. I like to start by adding a thin layer of ragout, then lasagna pasta, then ragout, then pasta, then the spinach ricotta filling (it spreads better on the pasta), then pasta, then ragout, then pasta. For the topping, I add a thin layer of ragout and then sprinkle with crumbled or shredded mozzarella on top.
Bake uncovered on middle rack in preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Allow to settle for 15-20 minutes before serving. Alternatively, allow to cool completely and cover with foil and store the lasagna in the fridge. The slices hold slightly better when the lasagna has cooled down completely. It tastes great hours later or even the next day. The lasagna can be reheated in the oven on a low heat covered with foil. Portions can also be reheated in the microwave, without foil. You can also freeze homemade lasagna (like my mother-in law!), although I have never done that.
Enjoy with a crispy salad on the side.