My Mom & I have begun testing out Thanksgiving recipes to see what might make this year’s cut & I will certainly be sharing those test results here soon. On the list of test-worthy recipes was a “Butternut Squash Lasagna” from Spork-Fed, which I still plan on testing, but there was a little something that re-directed my plan…Tofutti’s Better Than Ricotta. Upon making this discovery, I set out to put it to the test with a vegan version of a more “traditional” type recipe that I found in Sunset magazine. This recipe combines fall favorites butternut squash & kale with a creamy blend of cheeses & homemade marinara.
I remember reading about this new Tofutti product & thinking of all the dishes that this could conveniently veganize – white pizza, manicotti, one of my favorite Giada recipes (which I’ve previously made with homemade tofu ricotta) & of course – lasagna! In the past I’ve used the homemade tofu ricotta recipe from Veganomicon (& I am dying to try this wholesome cashew version) but sometimes you just want to cut corners a bit, right? Pre-washed & chopped kale, pre-peeled & cut squash, store bought marinara, etc. You can do all of that here & put this together in no time, however, I did peel the squash myself & make the marinara…but the tofu ricotta? Pre-made…
As I said, I remember reading about it the vegan ricotta, but quickly forgot, as my gimpy mind is on overload lately. Then, at Anna’s birthday, a pasta dish appeared, a pumpkin penne with big dollops of ricotta…dairy ricotta, I assumed at first glance, but no…Tofutti’s new vegan ricotta. As soon as I got the good word I dug in, & when I say I dug in, I mean it. I “dug in” with my fingers, no utensils required (I’ll admit my fair share of wine had been consumed by this time, I’m usually not so un-lady-like). The dish was divine, & the proof was in my shamefully devouring it with two bare hands. I couldn’t wait to get a hold of some – which I easily found at Sprouts – & see what I could create.
I chose a lazy afternoon to get this together, as it does take a bit of prep. I began by preparing the marinara, & once the tomatoes, herbs, onion & garlic were simmering on the stove, I took my first butternut squash of the season & peeled, chopped & baked it with with some olive oil, sea salt & thyme. Then into to food processor it went to be blended into a golden purée…
Next, I chopped & steamed the kale…
Then prepared the ricotta & mozzarella mixture. Right out of the carton, the texture of the ricotta seemed a bit spongy, not smooth or creamy like I remembered it in the pumpkin penne. Taste wise? I am not the best judge as it’s been years since I’ve tasted dairy ricotta, but this was mild with a bit of a “different” after taste that I could not quite place. I was hesitant, but remembered how delicious that penne was, & as this was going to be layered with noodles, veggies, & sauce, my hopes remained high.
To cut down on prep time I chose no-boil whole wheat lasagna noodles. When all components were ready to go, it was time get the lasagna assembled!
Layer after layer of sauce, noodles, sweet squash, tender kale, & creamy vegan ricotta went into the pan. After 30 minutes bubbling away in the oven, the ricotta was soft, creamy & melty (yay!) & these colorful layers of decadent vegan goodness were ready to be devoured.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium red onion, peeled & sliced
- 3 peeled garlic cloves (1 minced, 2 left whole)
- 1 28 oz. can organic crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- About 1 tsp. each salt & freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 6 cups (about 2 lbs.) butternut squash, peeled & cut into ½-in. cubes
- ½ tsp. dried thyme
- 1 pound Lacinato kale
- 9 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 8 oz.)
- 1 container (16 oz.) vegan ricotta (I used Tofutti)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups shredded vegan mozzarella cheese, divided (I used Daiya)
- Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a 3-qt. pot over medium heat. Add onion & minced garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft & translucent, 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, &1/2 tsp. each salt & pepper. Reduce heat & simmer until thick & flavors are combined, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
- While sauce is cooking, in a large baking pan, sprinkle squash with thyme, remaining olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste. Add whole garlic cloves & toss squash mixture to coat with oil. Bake until soft, 15-20 minutes.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Transfer squash & garlic to a food processor & purée until smooth.
- Bring 3 qt. pot of water to boil. Tear kale leaves from center ribs & discard ribs. Boil leaves until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain; let cool. Squeeze out as much water as possible & chop finely.
- In a bowl, mix ricotta, nutmeg, 1 cup mozzarella, & remaining ½ tsp. each salt & pepper.
- Coat the bottom of a 9- by 13-in. pan with ⅓ of tomato sauce (about 1 1/2 cups). Lay 3 noodles in a single layer over sauce. Top noodles with squash, spreading evenly. Sprinkle ½ of kale evenly over squash. Arrange 3 more noodles on kale & top with ricotta, spreading evenly. Top with remaining kale & noodles. Cover noodles with remaining tomato sauce & sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella.
- Bake lasagna until juices are bubbling & cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.
I loved the unique & wholesome mix of butternut squash & kale in this recipe. I was a little unsure of using a marinara sauce, as I’d used a white sauce in past vegetarian versions of this type of dish. However this was quite tasty as each layer worked wonderfully creating a sweet, savory, & rich medley of flavors & textures. I also sprinkled a bit of (my favorite) Parmela on each piece before serving.