Sunday, August 1, 2010

'Meaty' Spinach Pesto Lasagna

Meaty Spinach Pesto Lasagna

A great dish to serve to friends and really impress those meat-eaters. Because the cheese mixture in this recipe was soy-based, I was pleased that the meat was based primarily veggie. Make a huge batch so that you can freeze the leftovers and enjoy another lasagna-based meal later on, without all the prep.

8-12 sheets lasagna, parboiled for 5 minutes (I used Tinkyada rice lasagna)

1 recipe tofu ricotta (recipe follows, or use this one)

about 5 cups homemade or prepared marinara sauce -no sugar

1 batch Spinach Pesto (recipe follows)

1 batch ground “meat" (recipe follows).

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9 inch square pan and 8 inch loaf pan. (If you have a larger pan that equals the same area, please feel free to use it instead of two separate pans).

In a medium-sized bowl, fold the cheese and pesto together, just enough to combine (I left a few blobs of pesto visible here and there–you can mix it in completely if you wish). Set aside.

Line up the different ingredients so they’re ready to go, assembly-line style.

Cover the bottom of each pan with one layer of lasagna noodles. If necessary, overlap the noodles, but no more than 1/4 inch to fit them into the pans (I broke them into smaller pieces to accomplish this).

Measure out about 1-1/2 cups of the sauce and set aside.

Using the remainder of the sauce, spoon a thick layer of sauce over the noodles in each pan (I used about 3/4 cup for the loaf, 1 cup for the square pan). No noodles should be visible.

Divide the cheese mixture in half. Using one half of the cheese mixture, sprinkle it evenly over the sauce in each of the pans (I used about 2/3 of one half to cover the square pan, and 1/3 of one half to cover the loaf–in other words, 1/3 of the total in the square pan and 1/6 of the total in the loaf pan).

Divide the meat mixture in half. Using one half of the meat mixture, sprinkle it evenly over the cheese in each of the pans (I used about 2/3 of one half to cover the square pan, and 1/3 of one half to cover the loaf–in other words, 1/3 of the total in the square pan and 1/6 of the total in the loaf pan).

Repeat the layers one more time, using up all the cheese and meat. Cover with one more layer of noodles, then coat with the reserved sauce.

Bake in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, until bubbly and browned on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to set for at least 15 minutes before cutting into squares. Makes 8-10 servings. May be frozen.

Spinach Pesto:

1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup lightly toasted walnut halves and/or pine nuts (or use a combination)

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic

1 bunch fresh spinach, trimmed and washed (stems included)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Use as is or mix with ricotta cheese. Will keep, covered, in refrigerator up to 3 days. May be frozen.

Tofu Basil Ricotta
prep time: 10 minutes | cooking time: none | makes About 2 cups
Use as a filling for stuffed shells, mixed with tomato sauce in pasta or as a topping for pizza.

1 pound firm tofu, pressed
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
handful fresh basil leaves, chopped fine (ten leaves or so)
dash fresh black pepper

In a large bowl, mush the tofu up with your hands, till it's crumbly.

Add lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and basil. Mush with hands again, this time you want it to get very mushy so squeeze through your fingers and mush until it reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese. May take 2-5 minutes.

Add olive oil, stir with fork. Add nutritional yeast and combine all ingredients well. Use a fork now, because the oil will make it sticky. Cover and refigerate until ready to use.

Meaty Veg-Based Ground “Meat”:

1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and washed, broken into florets (about 1 pound after trimming)
2 cups raw walnut halves
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2-3/4 tsp fine sea salt, to taste
2 Tbsp Bragg’s liquid aminos, soy sauce, or tamari -omit for an entirely soy-free “meat”

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large rimmed cookie sheet or rectangular pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.

In a food processor, blend the cauliflower and nuts to a fine meal. Depending on how grainy you like your “meat,” it can be more or less fine; I made mine like a coarse cornmeal.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients.

Using your hands, knead everything together thoroughly, until the grounds are uniformly coated.

Turn the mixture into the pan and spread out evenly. Bake for 45 minutes and up to 1 hour 15 minutes (it will depend on the size of the pan and how thick the mixture is when you first begin to bake it), stirring after 30 minutes and then every 15 minutes after that, until the meat is dry and brown (if the layer underneath comes up looking wet and white–as cauliflower tends to do–then you need to keep baking).

The grounds will begin to separate and intensify in color as they roast.

Once the meat is cooked, you can cool, package, and freeze it for later use, or use it right away. Will keep, up to 3 days, covered in the refrigerator. May be frozen.

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