An Unexpected Take On Everyone's Favorite Comfort Food
Words: Jenné Claiborne of Sweet Potato Soul
Sweet Potato Soul chef Jenné Claiborne creates a vegan version of lasagna, her favorite childhood dish.
My mom used to make lasagna a lot when I was a kid. She’s wasn’t a big cook, but she’d make lasagna—one with ricotta, and another without (for me). I don’t remember what else she put in it, other than your typical noodles, mozzarella, tomato sauce, ground turkey (we didn’t eat red meat), and maybe some veggies, but I loved it!
I discovered something very special about this classic dish recently. Lasagna doesn’t have to have meat, or cheese, or even noodles to be amazingly delicious! Why use noodles when you can use thin roasted slices of butternut squash? The beauty of eating lasagna without all of the typical American fixin's is that once you’ve enjoyed a yummy plate of it, you don’t feel like you need to take a nap. The veggies, mushrooms, and homemade tofu cheese are light yet nourishing, and seriously satisfying.
In this hearty vegan and gluten-free lasagna, I used a mixture of shiitake and white button mushrooms, fresh rosemary and tarragon, swiss chard, homemade sauce (so easy!), tofu “cheese,” and squash. The flavor and texture are excellent–everything you’d want from a meal on a cold winter day.
I’m looking forward to having a daughter for whom I can make this lasagna some day. Maybe it will be one of her favorite dishes, just like my mom’s was mine. You know how there some some dishes that bring back sweet memories? Lasagna will always be that for me.
Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Lasagna
This lasagna, like most, is done in parts. You’ve got your roasted squash, sauce, veggies, and tofu “cheese.” If you like to cook, this meal with bring you lots of joy in the kitchen. If you don’t think of yourself as a cook, give it a try anyway. Each step is easy as pie, and the result is well worth the minimal effort and time.
Can’t get your hands on swiss chard–or any other chard? Use spinach, kale, or collards. If you’re not a fan of butternut squash, use zucchini instead.
Serves 4 generously
Special Equipment You’ll Need
Shallow baking dish (about 8×8)
For the squash
1 large butternut squash, peeled, halved and thinly sliced in half-moon shapes (about 1/4 inch thick) or 2 small butternuts (about 5 cups worth)
For the sauce
1 14-oz can of plain tomato sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp Italian herb dried spice
1 tsp fresh black pepper
For the mushroom / chard mix
4 cups of your favorite mushrooms (I used shiitake and white button), sliced
4 cups of swiss chard, rib removed, washed, and chopped
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp red chili flakes (if you like heat)
For the tofu "cheese"
1 block of firm organic tofu
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
Preheat oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss your sliced butternut squash with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and spread the squash onto the baking sheet. If it doesn’t all fit use a second baking sheet, or layer it. Roast for 30 minutes until tender, but not too mushy.
While the squash is roasting, you can complete the other parts.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until golden (be careful not to burn it). Reduce the heat and carefully pour the tomato sauce into the pan. It might start to pop, so keep the lid nearby. Stir the garlic and sauce, then add the nutritional yeast, herbs, and black pepper. Cover, and allow the sauce to cook while you work on the next part.
SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOMS
Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a generous pinch of sea salt, and stir. The heat will draw the moisture out of the mushrooms, so don’t worry if the pan seems too dry. Once they’ve begun to sweat (moisten), add the swiss chard, tarragon, and rosemary. Stir well, and remove from heat.
Break the tofu up and place it in a food processor. Process until smooth, then add the nutritional yeast, vinegar, and salt. Process again to incorporate it all, and taste to see if you need to add any more salt.
ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA
Now that you’ve got all the parts complete you can assemble the lasagna. To do this you will place a layer of squash on the bottom of the baking dish. Follow that with some of the “cheese,” then some of the mushroom mix (squeeze excess liquid from the mushrooms and greens before layering), then the sauce, then the squash again. Continue to layer the ingredients until you’ve used them all. Use about 1/2 cup of “cheese,” sauce, and mushrooms on each layer. I like my top layer to have all the ingredients visible. Place the lasagna back in the oven and bake for 40 minutes (or 30 if you just can’t wait).
Enjoy with a glass of vegan wine. I’ve been drinking a lot of Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon lately. Cheap and vegan!