Well, we are still waiting for the summer weather to arrive. It is still quite cool here, and so my taste buds have been craving pasta.
Not just any pasta, but a rich full lasagna complete with lots of noodles, rich tomato sauce, protein packed lentils and spinach in a white cream sauce.
Fortunately, even though the weather here has been unseasonably cool, we are in the summer growing season, so there are lots of fresh, vine ripened, tomatoes at the store. Combined with the basil I have growing on my windowsill, the beginnings of a great tomato sauce emerge.
Now, this sauce takes a little time and a couple of extra steps, but the result is worth it. I have found that by roasting the tomato’s, red pepper, onion and garlic in the oven with a little olive oil, the flavours really magnify. The longer you can leave this mix in the oven, the better it gets. The onions caramalize and mix with the tomato’s juices.
For a true lasagna experience, I needed the sauce to have some “meaty” body to it, so I added French Green Lentils. These little guys have a great taste and they hold their texture well. Finally, I also added some mushrooms, just because I love mushrooms.
I used whole wheat lasagna sheets, but you can substitute with any pasta you like. Years ago, I worked in a European Deli in Canberra (Australia’s capital city) and they used spiral pasta for their lasagna and it worked very nicely.
Hopefully, the weather will warm up soon and I will start craving some summer dishes. Perhaps a nice juicy vegan burger.
In the meantime, enjoy,
Oven Roasted Tomato Lentil Lasagna with Spinach Cream
Preheat oven to 375
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 4 large ripe tomato’s roughly chopped
- 1 large red pepper, roughly chopped
- 6 – 10 cloves garlic roughly chopped (I love garlic and use 8 in the sauce, plus two in the tofu cream)
- 2 tblspns olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 block firm tofu (not silken)
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 bunch fresh basil, 20 to 30 leaves
- 1/4 cup water or non dairy milk
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 cup cooked french green lentils (you can use other lentils, however these hold their shape best)
- 1 large portobello mushroom diced
- pasta of choice – enough for three layers in your baking dish. Note: see end of recipe if you are using uncooked lasagna sheets.
Place chopped tomato’s, red peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper into a large baking dish. combine well and bake in 375 degree oven for at least one hour, stirring well every 20 mins.
The longer it bakes, the better. You want the onions to caramelise.
While tomato sauce is baking, combine the tofu, lemon juice, basil, water/non dairy milk, remaining 2 cloves garlic and additional salt to taste in blender or food processor. Process until creamy, set aside.
Finely chop spinach, or process in food processor until just chopped. Add spinach to tofu cream and mix well. Place in fridge until ready to assemble the lasagna.
Cook pasta as directed on package and set aside. Unless using uncooked pasta, then see additional instructions at end of recipe.
Cook lentils in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them until just soft. Add additional water if needed.
Cook mushrooms in a little water until soft and they have released their juices.
Once tomato mixture has finished baking, remove from oven, stir in cooked, drained lentils and mushrooms plus their juices.
Assemble the lasagna:
place a little of the sauce mixture on the bottom of a baking dish (add a little water if needed)
Place 1/3 of the noodles on top.
Top with 1/3 of the spinach cream
Top with 1/3 of the sauce
Repeat the above, twice more.
Bake in 375 oven for approx 20 mins until heated through and sauce bubbles.
Remove from oven and let sit for 10 mins before serving.
Note: If you use the uncooked type of lasagna noodles , add 1 cup of water to the sauce mix and bake for additional 10 to 20 mins. Test noodles with a knife to make sure they are cooked through