Lasagna has been our go-to holiday centerpiece since my sister and I went vegetarian sometime in the early 1990s. That was in the days before Tofurky and other vegetarian centerpiece options. At the time, we just did cheese lasagna. Over the years, we’ve tried different adaptations and, most recently, we’ve been doing the fake “beef” lasagnas. My sister started using an herbier recipe from Better Homes & Gardens and we recently tried it out for the holiday meal. It’s pretty similar to our traditional recipe. The original is just missing some of the extra spices and the egg, which helps hold the pieces together a little more sturdily. The adapted recipe uses a ‘deep-dish’ lasagna pan, since the veggie meat comes in 1 pound packages and our family loves leftover lasagna.
Vegetarian “Meaty” Lasagna
3 cups of vegan homemade ground beef substitute or browned ground beef
1 C chopped onion (1 large)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning mix, crushed
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed or 1 drop oregano essential oil (I buy mine HERE)
1 tsp. fennel seed, crushed (optional) or 1 drop fennel essential oil (I buy mine HERE)
1/4 tsp. black pepper or 1 toothpick dip of black pepper essential oil (I buy mine HERE)
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 pound (1/2 box) or 9 dried lasagna noodles
1 beaten egg
2 C ricotta or whole milk cottage cheese (I used ricotta because I had it already)
1/4 C grated parmesan, Romano, or asiago cheese
3 Tbsp. snipped fresh basil or 2-3 drops of basil essential oil (I buy mine HERE)
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
4 oz. shredded or sliced Swiss cheese
For meat sauce, in a medium saucepan cook onion over high heat until caramelized. (Onions should be well-browned at the edges and translucent.) Add garlic and “ground beef”.
Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, italian seasoning, oregano, fennel seed, and pepper. Bring to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain noodles; rinse with cold water. Drain well.
For filling, combine the egg, cottage cheese, the 1/4 c Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese, and the basil.
Layer 1/3 of the cooked noodles in a deep 13×9 baking dish. Spread with half of the filling. Top with half of the meat sauce and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Top with the last 3 noodles, 1/3 or the mozzarella cheese, and swiss cheese. If desired, sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on top.
Bake 375° oven for 30-35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 12 servings.
Drool. That’s it. But really, this one consistently fools my meat-eating uncle and father. And even when they do remember that I wouldn’t be eating it if it were made with ground beef, they love it. It is delicious. Nice and spicy (not hot, just herby) and so deliciously cheesy. I’m not sure this one is possible with vegan cheez, but it’s worth a shot for sure. I also surely cheated the amounts of the cheese. I think I ended up using double the Swiss and about 2 extra cups of mozzarella. This is another great starter recipe for those who are trying to go vegetarian or feed a family of mixed meat and veggie-eaters. So tasty. And, it freezes really well. Just slice it into serving-size squares and flash freeze on a cookie sheet before throwing it into a Ziploc bag.