“Meaty” Vegan Lasagne

First vegan day of the year. This isn’t even the first thing I’ve cooked today, and I was going to save the post for next week when I’m on a cruise and can’t be in the kitchen, but this needs to be shared nowww.

I’m gonna go right ahead and say I think this is the best thing I’ve ever made. Not because it’s particularly restaurant-quality or pretty, but it tastes SO MUCH like regular homemade lasagne that I’m having a hard time believing it. And this is coming from a cheese lover. I just… what. That bechamel. Holy, crap.

I designed this recipe to resemble actual, meaty lasagne with cheesy sauce as closely as possible. It’s a real-method bechamel (white cheese sauce) with nutmeg and pepper, plus tapioca flour which gives it a stretchiness almost exactly like cheese. The ‘mince’ is made with crumbled lentils and cashews and is pretty damn similar to the texture of beef mince. This lasagne is topped not only with bechamel, but crunchy herby breadcrumbs for that yummy crisp top. Nutritional yeast flakes contain a lot of Vitamin B (think Vegemite) and provide a slight cheesy flavour. This takes the same amount of time to prepare as a normal lasagne.

THE STATS
Approximate cost to buy everything: $48 (that’s $6 per serve, and less if you’ve already got some ingredients in the pantry)

Will feed: 6-8 people

Time taken: 1 hour and 15 mins from prep to table, but with a solid 45 minutes of oven time between where you can forget about it and go do other things.

The protein, iron and calcium I’m not getting from meat and dairy? A tonne of protein in the yeast, a fair bit of protein from the lentils and milk, and a good smack of iron from the lentils and spinach. There’s some calcium in the spinach, cashews and lentils, but to boost it you can add a sneaky layer of seaweed sheets on top of each pasta layer.

Honest rating: 10/10. I just… I just can’t.

Ingredients
Pasta

1 pack lasagne sheets – be sure they don’t contain egg – but don’t worry because most are 100% semolina (:

Bechamel

2 tbsp vegetable oil, or another neutral-tasting oil such as sunflower
2 tbsp flour + 2tbsp tapioca flour/arrowroot
500ml soy, rice or almond milk (I use soy)
2 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Mince

1 400g can red/brown lentils, drained well
1 cup raw unsalted cashews
2 x 400g cans tomato pasta sauce
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 tbsp frozen spinach
(you can add any other veggies you like)

Topping
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used both regular and panko)
1/4 cup chopped basil/sage/parsley/rosemary/oregano/a combination of all these
Salt and pepper
An extra sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes

Method

Preheat oven to 200*C.

To make the bechamel, lightly heat oil in a saucepan. Add flours and cook over medium heat, stirring with a whisk to cook the flour slightly – about 2 minutes.

Pour in milk of choice, and whisk constantly as it cooks to remove lumps; If it hasn’t thickened to a thick custard-like consistency in a couple of minutes, turn the heat up a bit.

Once thickened, stir in yeast flakes, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make bolognese sauce, pulse cashews in a food processor until crumbled finely. Add lentils and pulse briefly until they’re broken up into chunks – don’t let them become a paste! Place in a saucepan with pasta sauce, carrot, peas and spinach and heat until spinach has defrosted and spread through. Set aside.

Assemble the lasagne: start with a thin layer of bolognese, then add pasta sheets, a layer of bechamel, a layer of bolognese, a layer of pasta sheets, and so on. Continue until casserole dish is nearly full, then spread the top with the rest of the bechamel.

Sprinkle lasagne with breadcrumbs, herbs, yeast flakes and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Spray lightly with olive oil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until top is golden and pasta is tender. Serve with a green salad.

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