I first made Loaded Lasagna for my (belated) birthday dinner in July 2014.

I was following a legume- and vegetable-based diet and wanted a filling and delicious dish for my birthday. As my mother unfortunately doesn’t understand how to prepare dishes that are plant-based, healthy and tasty, the task was up to me to make a meal that not only I would enjoy but hopefully the whole family could enjoy.

Except for my sister’s fiancé, who essentially doesn’t find any healthy food agreeable (he claims he doesn’t eat anything green!), everybody else thought the dinner was pretty satisfying! The familiarity of lasagna surely helped with the acceptance of this healthy recipe. The classic but still bold combination of flavors that lasagna offers aided in their approval of my plant-based meal, too.

Loaded Lasagna

One key to get non-vegetarians to enjoy plant-based food is to mimic the flavors and textures they usually consume. Typical individuals eat a lot of food with the umami flavor. Umami is found in nearly all animal products and select plant foods.

I chose all of the plant foods that I knew had umami in them: mushrooms, tomato and a fermented food, sauerkraut. Making a thick tomato sauce helps concentrate the umami flavor for non-vegetarians who are used to food products and recipes that are laden with the umami flavor. Adding sauerkraut to the cheese sauce gives the sauce a flavor closer to dairy cheese and mushrooms mimic meat.

Helpful tips before you start:

  • Use as little water as possible in order to make the cheesy sauce. This will prevent the lasagna from having too much liquid.
  • Laying out the sliced zucchini on a baking sheet and cooking it before you assemble the lasagna will also aid in reducing the amount of liquid in the lasagna.
  • Boost the cheesy flavor of the cheese sauce by including some nutritional yeast.
  • Chopped mushrooms provide a perfect meaty texture. Include them if possible.
  • If you desire a yellow cheese sauce, add turmeric to the mixture.
  • Make it a meal with Herby Whole Grain Bread and a tossed salad like I did.
  • Allow yourself at least 45 minutes to prepare this dish (not including cooking time). Yes, this is a time-intensive recipe. However, the final result is worth the effort!

Recipe:

Loaded Lasagna is the perfect name for this recipe. It’s loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants and everything else a healthy body desires. I won’t forget to mention it’s loaded with flavor as well. The only things this recipe isn’t loaded with are salt, sugar and fat. All in all, I have retained all the positive characteristics associated with lasagna and unloaded the negatives to create Loaded Lasagna. Enjoy!

Vegan and free of added salt, sugar, oil, soy, gluten, nuts and seeds

Reasons to love this recipe: Italian-inspired, extremely nutritious, comfort food, high amounts of produce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Cheesy Sauce:

  • 2 cups chickpeas, sprouted
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sauerkraut
  • 1 tbsp ground mustard

Marinara Sauce:

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup red wine (vinegar if unavailable)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp dry parsley
  • 2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 lb (500-600 grams) fresh tomatoes, diced (or 1 can)

Noodles:

  • 1 lb (600 g) zucchini, sliced lengthwise

Chopped Veggie Ideas (at least 2 are recommended):

  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Capsicum
  • Spinach

Preparation:

Marinara Sauce:

Sauté the onions and garlic in a fry pan with half the wine for 5 minutes or until the onions are slightly translucent. Add the oregano, parsley and thyme and cook for a few more minutes. Lastly add the tomatoes and the rest of the wine. Occasionally stir the contents of the pan until the tomatoes have broken down and juices have come out. Simmer for 15 minutes or until a thick sauce has formed. Set aside.

Cheesy Sauce:

Slightly overcook the chickpeas (pressure cook for 18 minutes or on stovetop for necessary time). Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, black pepper, sauerkraut and mustard into your blender or food processor. Blend the ingredients into a smooth sauce. If you need to add extra water to the mixture in order to blend it, use excess water leftover from cooking the chickpeas. Use as little water as possible in order to purée. Set aside. Loaded-Lasagna

Noodles:

Slice off both ends of the zucchini. Using a mandolin or another slicer of the sort, slice the zucchini lengthwise into long, thin and wide strips. Do this for all the zucchini. Set aside.

Vegetables:

Chop, slice, grate or dice your selected filling vegetables as desired and set aside.

Assembly and Baking:

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Lay the zucchini noodles along the bottom of a large oven-save baking dish. First cover the zucchini in a layer of cheese sauce, then the tomato sauce and lastly sprinkle chopped vegetables on top. Repeat the process of covering the dish with noodles, sauce and chopped veggies. End with a layer of zucchini on the top. Bake covered for 20 minutes, uncover and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy after allowing the lasagna to cool for 5-10 minutes as the contents of the dish will be extremely hot.

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Sara Binde
 

Sara is a health and nutrition coach. She advocates for a whole foods plant-based lifestyle and teaches the world how to achieve weight loss.