As promised, here is part two in my lasagna two ways series. First came my Lasagna Rosso Classico, and now for my less traditional, Spicy Lasagna Verde. Instead of tomatoes, I fill this lasagna with pine nut basil pesto sauce. A spicy green jalapeno adds a flavor kick. You'll be amazed at how much the pesto sauce reminds you of that creamy dense texture of ricotta cheese. This is a vegan 'green' twist on lasagna that you must check out....
Spicy Lasagna Verde
1 box no-boil lasagna pasta strips
1 container extra firm tofu (about two cups of 1/2 inch thick 'tofu steaks'.)
1-2 cups of shredded Mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese, vegan (I use Follow Your Heart brand because it melts well.)
For tofu/mushroom/zucchini fillings:
2 cups zucchini, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced (any variety you'd like)
fresh lemon juice
2 cups raw unsalted pine nuts (pignolias)
1/2 cup garlic
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 large bunch fresh basil, stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large lemons, squeezed
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 large jalapeno, stem removed
crushed red pepper flakes
olive oil, as required in cooking process.
salt/pepper as needed
fresh basil and chopped parsley for garnish
First lay out all your ingredients.
You will be pre-cooking most of the filling ingredients so you want to make sure everything is ready and available on the counter top.
First make your pesto sauce.
First lightly toast the pine nuts with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt. About 60-90 seconds on high heat in a skillet.
Add to food processor.
Combine all the pesto ingredients in the food processor-lemon,parsley, basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, agave, jalapeno and garlic- grind until smooth.
Grease the bottom of your pan with olive oil.
You may use a 9" round pan or a long rectangle casserole dish.
Layering Note: You can actually layer the lasagna ingredients any way you'd like, but this is how I like to do it.
I put a very thin layer of tomatoes on the bottom layer (because I had some leftover. But you can skip that for a tomato-free lasagna.)
Lay one layer of no-boil pasta strips in pan.
Spread a layer of pesto sauce.
Then a thin layer of cheese.
Then another layer of pasta strips.
A little overlap of the pasta is good.
Put a thin layer of mozzarella cheese on pasta. Set pan aside.
It's time to braise the tofu.
First, slice the tofu into 1/2 inch thick strips.
Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 Tbsp agave syrup to a hot saute or soup pan. Add the sliced tofu.
Cover pan and allow to braise for a few minutes over med-high heat.
You want to brown the edges of the tofu, while still keeping the center of the tofu fluffy and moist.
Salt and pepper the tofu as needed.
About 1/2 teaspoon salt/pepper per batch.
Repeat this process with all your tofu rectangles. I had about 10 to work with.
Next, in the still hot pan, add a few drizzles of olive oil, dash of salt and the mushrooms, zucchini and chopped 5 chopped garlic cloves.
I'll also add in some leftover lemon juice and pine nuts to the pan as the cooking process proceeds.
Saute for a few minutes, covered.
Add some fresh black pepper and toss this mixture.
You want the mushrooms to be cooked though and the zucchini to be browned a bit-not soggy.
Make sure a lot of steam comes off the mixture to remove some of the moisture.
Water moisture out, flavor moisture in from the lasagna layers.
Remove from heat when ready, set aside.
Now back to the lasagna layering.
Atop the last layer of pasta, spread a layer of neatly placed zucchini rounds.
You can do another layer of pasta here.
Then a layer of tofu, tightly packed. (Only tofu layer)
Then do a layer of mushrooms and any remaining zucchini.
Then do another layer of pasta.
Then the last layer of thickly spread pesto.
Here, you can either top it with thick mozzarella cheese, or do a layer of pasta, then cheese. If you don't have an additional pasta layer, your top pesto will brown significantly, but will also dry out a bit to taste like a grainy ricotta cheese. I liked this outcome, but if you want to keep your pesto super moist-add pasta-then cheese for the last layer. Confused? I hope not!
Then cover tightly with a greased foil sheet.
Place in a 350 degree oven to bake for 45 minutes.
When the 45 minutes are up, carefully uncover the lasagna and broil it on high for about 5 minutes to brown the top cheese layer and crisp up the edges.
Garnish with fresh basil, chopped parsley and red pepper flakes.