I love pasta dishes, and when I don’t have a lot of time to cook, I like to duplicate our favorite recipes that we’ve tried in Italy. I don’t remember having any sophisticated pasta dishes over there, so every time I recreate an Italian recipe, I try to keep things simple. I use very few ingredients, extra virgin olive oil, always a homemade tomato sauce, and good quality pasta. When my boyfriend asked about homemade lasagna, I was in a little bit of trouble because I don’t remember seeing a vegetarian version on the menu of any Italian restaurant. I also didn’t want to use too much cheese or dairy in my dish, so it was a really big challenge.
I decided to go for a vegan mushroom and walnut ragu filling, a vegan bechamel sauce to add a splash of green color and more nutrients, and enrich the dish with free-range eggs. Surprisingly, the combination was a success, and the taste pretty much resembled the classic lasagna dish. At first, I didn’t have a clue about what to replace the ground meat with, and I really wanted something with the same texture. If I would have cooked this just for myself, I would have definitely gone for a roasted veggie filling, but I wanted to surprise my boyfriend with an as-close-to-the-original treat. Mushrooms are a great replacement for meat, and if you want to reproduce the ground meat texture, adding nuts will help you do the trick.
This recipe is a great way to convince your family members to eat veggies. Mushrooms, celery, spinach and carrots – they’re all hidden within this apparently decadent dish (although mushrooms are not exactly vegetables). Mushrooms contain high quantities of minerals, especially copper, selenium, potassium, and zinc, but also B1, B2, B3, and B6 vitamins. Recent studies have proven that some fresh mushrooms are a source of the valuable B12 vitamin, which is very rare in a vegetarian diet. However, this content varies much from farm to farm, and according to the conditions in which mushrooms are grown. The nutrients in mushrooms have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer benefits.
If you check the nutrition label, you will see that it actually has a low calorie load and it’s definitely more nutritious than any frozen meat lasagna from the supermarket. It might take more time to prepare, but it is worth gathering the whole family around a lovely flavored and nutritious lunch.
Skinny Vegetarian Lasagna with Mushroom Ragu and Spinach
- 6 cups portobello mushrooms cut in quarters
- 2 celery stalks finely diced
- 1 carrot finely diced
- 2 onions finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves crushed
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 cups mixed walnuts and hazelnuts
- 2 cups frozen spinach leaves
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- freshly ground black pepper
- Vegan Bechamel Sauce
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp chickpea flour
- 2 cups almond milk
- 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth
- ½ tsp nutmeg powder
- 1/2 package lasagna sheets
- 2 organic eggs
- Heat the oven at 180°C/356°F.
- Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large skillet, add the onions, carrot, celery and two garlic cloves, and cook for 7-10 minutes at low heat , stirring from time to time.
- Add the mushrooms and nuts, stir to combine and cook until all the released liquid evaporates.
- Add the white wine, stir to combine and cook for 3 more minutes.
- Transfer into a food processor bowl, and pulse two or three times, until the mixture ressembles with minced meat.
- Put the mixture back in the skillet, add tomato sauce and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes over low heat.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet, add one garlic clove, fry it for 30 seconds, just to flavor the oil, then add the spinach and stir to combine.
- Cook the spinach until all the liquid evaporates, season with salt and pepper and transfer in a bowl.
- Heat the coconut oil in a sauce pan over low heat, add the chickpea flour and stir to combine.
- Add the almond milk and vegetable broth, bring to boil and simmer on low heat whisking continuosly until the mixture thickens. Adjust the texture with almond milk. Season with nutmeg.
- Grease a baking pan with olive oil, and add layers of lasagna sheets, topped with mushroom ragu, and bechamel sauce.
- Repeat with the rest of the composition, and top with a layer of lasagna sheets and cooked spinach.
- Beat the eggs, season with salt and pepper and pour on top of the dish.
- Cook for 20 minutes.Serve immediately.