Today’s recipe, Veggie Lentil Lasagna, is perfect for those lazy meal prep days when you want to fill your kitchen with delicious aromas and time isn’t necessarily of the essence. I have fond memories from my childhood of those Sundays when my Mom would cook something yummy and those delightful smells would waft their way upstairs to my room. I hope my kids have those memories when they grow up too.
I’ve made several versions of vegan lasagna before and they were all pretty good. I didn’t think I needed another vegan lasagna recipe. But one day, while playing around on Pinterest, I ran across a recipe for a gluten-free, dairy-free lasagna, so I thought I’d check it out. Unfortunately, there were a few key words missing, like vegan. It was full of hamburger, sausage and eggs. But I was intrigued by the special ingredient: red wine. So I got to work adapting it and this marvelous, rich and tasty dish came out. I was shocked at how good it was! I hope you think so too.
To make the cheesy sauce vegan, I made an “egg” out of chia seeds and water. Instead of the hamburger and sausage, I used a can of lentils to replicate the texture of meat. Then I threw in some steamed kale, zucchini and yellow squash. There is a lot going on here but somehow it all works marvelously together. I’ve tried this out on a number of non-vegans with terrific results!
As for the special ingredient of red wine, I’m sure you are wondering what kind I used. It went like this: I asked Steve to go to the liquor store and ask them what red wine works best for cooking. He came home with one and it was awesome! Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced that empty bottle to tell you what it is. What I DO know is that I made a version of this once using a Nouveau Beaujolais and it wasn’t nearly as good, so the wine you choose WILL affect the taste of this dish.
Because I love you all so much I did some research on the best red wines to use for cooking. Here is what I learned:
…Focusing on the more narrow category—fruity/smooth/mellow—we selected four new bottles of wine: Sangiovese (a medium-bodied wine from Italy), red Zinfandel (from California), Pinot Noir (from Burgundy, France), and Côtes du Rhône (from southern France). The Sangiovese tasted great in the tomato sauce but made an astringent pan sauce and a cardboard-tasting stew. The Zinfandel tasted overcooked and jammy in the tomato sauce and turned the pan sauce bitter. While both the Côtes du Rhône and Pinot Noir turned in impressive results across the board, the Côtes du Rhône was stellar.
Information courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.
Fair warning, this isn’t a quick weeknight meal, but makes for a nice leisurely Sunday type of meal. The good thing is that while it takes a little bit of time to make, it is a one-dish meal, so you don’t really need to make anything else. Well, you can make dessert. Dessert is always good. Try it with these Rocky Road Brownies or, for a lighter alternative, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Apple Dippers.
If you’d like to eat this on a weeknight, you can prep it ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for a day or two prior to baking. When you are ready to make dinner, just pop it in the oven.
This recipe makes a large pan of lasagna which makes it ideal for a potluck event, dinner party or a large gathering. Alternately, you can make this, then eat half, and freeze half for another time. Cut it into serving-sized portions, wrap them in wax paper, then wrap them in freezer strength aluminum foil, and store in a resealable freezer storage bag. Defrost prior to eating.
- 8 oz mushrooms diced
- 1 onion diced
- 1 bell pepper (red, yellow or orange) diced
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 1-2 cups zucchini and/or yellow squash sliced into thin rounds and then quartered
- 1 bunch kale, washed, with ribs removed and chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 handful of fresh basil, washed and chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)
- 1 cup red wine (use a Côtes du Rhône, Sangiovese, or Pinot Noir for best results)
- 28 ounce can organic diced tomatoes (I like using fire roasted tomatoes for this recipe)
- 14 ounce can organic tomato sauce
- 2 cups cashews
- 1 cup water
- 2 chia eggs: 2 tablespoons chia seeds and 6 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 handfulls Italian parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried parsley)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 box lasagna noodles (can use either gluten-free or regular)
- Soak cashews in a bowl with enough water to cover them for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
- Make chia “eggs” by mixing chia seeds with 6 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and let sit for at least 10 minutes until thickened.
- Now, start on the red veggie sauce. To a large sauce pan add mushrooms, onions, peppers and garlic with 2 tablespoons of water and cook over medium-high heat, until they just start to soften, about 4-5 minutes.
- Next add in the kale and sliced zucchini/squash with a tablespoon of water. Cover and steam for 3-5 minutes until the kale turns a bright green.
- At this point drain out any liquid remaining in the pan, or the sauce will be too runny.
- Stir in the lentils, oregano, salt and basil and cook uncovered over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until everything is heated and mixed together.
- Add the wine and cook until reduced for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times.
- Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and mix everything together. Allow to simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, start on the Cheesy sauce.
- Drain the water from the cashews and blend them with 1 cup of water in a high-speed blender. Make sure they are as smooth as can be.
- Add in chia eggs, salt and garlic and blend until smooth. Add in the parsley and pulse a few times until it is just mixed in (so the whole concoction doesn’t turn green). If the consistency is too thick, add in a teaspoon of water at a time and blend. The consistency should be slightly thick and not runny, but not so thick that it won’t spread.
- If you are using gluten-free noodles, I have heard it is better to cook them first. I’ve tried it by cooking them first and not cooking them first. Not only does it save time to NOT cook the noodles first, they were far less soggy and held up nicely in the lasagna. So my verdict is DON’T cook your gluten-free lasagna noodles first. If you are using regular lasagna noodles, many of them don’t need pre-cooking either.
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Using a 9x13 glass dish, spread a few spoons full of the red veggie sauce and cheesy sauce on the bottom and mix them around. Just use enough to cover the bottom so nothing sticks.
- Add 1 layer of noodles, making sure to cover the entire bottom.
- Spread about 1 cup of cheesy sauce on top of the noodles so they are all covered evenly.
- Add a layer of red veggie sauce, about 1 cup or enough to cover the cheesy sauce.
- Add another layer of noodles.
- Add the remaining cheesy sauce on top of the noodles and spread evenly.
- Finish with a layer of the remaining red veggie sauce, about 1 cup.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes until it seems set.
- Remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Do not overcook it as it will dry out.
- Let cool for 15 minutes before you cut into it.
- Top with vegan parmesan (optional) and serve hot.
Use your leftover red sauce on some pasta, spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles or a baked potato for another meal.