april 16, 2020
Hearty comfort food is the norm these days. Lasagna is the one dish meal I think of for an explosion of flavor and texture that appeals to my sense of comfort. In my quest to reduce red meat consumption, there is one champion and that is Beyond Meat. Earlier incarnations of vegan meat substitutes were riddled with soy and wheat, both allergens for me and many others, but these delicious burgers, crumbles and link sausages are made with pea protein. They are damn good.
Many vegans don’t miss the flavor and texture of meat. So for them a black bean burger, with its lack of crunch and chew, will suffice for their sandwiches. Indeed, the folks who craft Beyond Meat admit their target audience is not vegans but rather folks who are trying to reduce their meat consumption and slowly ease into plant-based eating. That’s me in a nutshell. Today’s recipe is not vegan lasagna. There is cheese galore and four (count ’em, four!) types layered with no-boil noodles and a zesty vegan meat sauce. Creamy vegetarian lasagna can also be found here.
Some wonderful clients of mine have a mixed marriage : she’s vegetarian, he’s a carnivore who is trying to avoid red meat and eat mostly chicken and seafood, if at all. Kudos to him for allowing change to come into his life. They asked for a vegan meat sauce lasagna and this started my quest for something that would appeal to both carnivores and vegetarians, something that tastes “just like”.
That’s the phrase we use when goading someone to try new things (“here, try this – tastes just like chicken!”) with mixed success. The chicken lover will not always budge, retorting that you may as well just give them chicken and dispense with the trickery. I served this lasagna to my dinner party tasters and all agreed the “just like” meat sauce moniker was appropriate.
A word about no-boil noodles. I admit to boiling mine in salted water for a few minutes until they become more pliable —they fit better in the lasagna baking dish and allow for heavier stacking of ingredients (read: cheese). You certainly can skip this step, but know that the uncooked noodles will absorb more liquid and more liquid should be added to your sauce in compensation.
Flavors of this lasagna develop well after a couple days in the fridge, if you can stand waiting that long. Freezing is a great option; just give a full 2 days defrosting in the fridge and place a loose foil cover at 350 degrees so the lasagna does not get too dry.
I love Beyond Meat products so much that the crumbles, burgers and sausages always reside in my freezer, ready for dishes like Beans, Sausage and Chard, Beef Tamale Pie and Chorizo Sausage with Lentils and Tomato. I’ll still make these recipes in the original way they were written, but for those times when I want to increase my plant consumption, I’ll reach for a pack of plant-based vegan meat for my lasagna fix.
Beyond Meat Lasagna
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes 8 servings
12 no-boil lasagna noodles*
finely ground white pepper
15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
8 ounces whole milk feta cheese
8 ounces neufchâtel cheese
¼ cup milk
fine sea salt
1 large garlic clove, zested on microplane grater or minced
1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, zested on microplane grater or minced
1 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
optional : ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
14.5 ounce can petite dice tomatoes
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
10 ounces frozen Beyond Meat meaty beef/burger crumbles
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
* I like Barilla gluten free – regular pasta also good
- You can use no-boil noodles in the dry state, but if you like them more flexible, place them in boiling salted water, using tongs to gently keep separated and simmer several minutes until pliable and soft; after draining and rinsing with cold water, place them on lightly greased baking sheet (use cooking spray for ones that will overlap to avoid having them stick) until ready to use.
- In mixing bowl, blend together the ricotta, feta, neufchâtel, pinch of sea salt and large garlic clove with immersion stick blender (or use food processor) until smooth.
- In large heavy saute pan, bring onion and olive oil to sizzle over medium high heat with pinches of kosher salt and white pepper, stirring to coat; reduce heat to medium low and stir occasionally until onion becomes translucent and tender, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add basil, oregano and 2 large garlic cloves (and crushed red pepper if using), stirring for 10 seconds until fragrant.
- Add crushed and diced tomatoes, brown sugar and burger crumbles; bring to boil, stirring to combine all, then simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray 9 X 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- Place enough tomato sauce to cover bottom of dish, then place 4 noodles, overlapping slightly.
- Add half the feta mixture (if thick, drop large tablespoons and use moistened fingertips to spread evenly), then sprinkle with half the mozzarella.
- Cover with half the remaining sauce, then 4 more noodles, then the rest of the feta mixture and mozzarella.
- Top with last 4 noodles, then reminder of the sauce.
- Cover with foil and bake 45-60 minutes, removing foil last 15 minutes of cooking to dry top.
- Let stand at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
- Can be made ahead several days; to freeze, let cool completely and package.