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Asparagus Lasagna

As a vegan, I am about to say something that I would have never expected to say. Ever. You see, this recipe was one that I adapted from Giada De Laurentis, aka the pork and cheese loving force behind the show (and all of the accompanying cookbooks) Everyday Italian. I promise you – I am not kidding!

The other day I had the food network on TV as I was doing some around-the-house tasks. I believe the show that was on was Extreme Cakes (seriously, people- these were some pretty extreme cakes! There were firecrackers, pounds of fondant, and moving parts…) when I left the room … and when I came back, there was Giada, throwing around pancetta, mozarella, parmesean, and ricotta like these are the staples of any healthy, well balanced meal. Believe it or not, as I watched this one-woman-health-crisis go, I thought to myself, “Hmmmm….that dish has potential.” As I went about my day, I had the idea of this dish lodged firmly in the back of my head and eventually, to purge it, I had to make it. With a few adaptations, of course.

For this dish I used whole wheat lasagna noodles for the first time and I was pleased with their chewy texture. I overhauled the recipe to rid it of all animal products, and I subbed in soy cheese and a modified version of Isa Moskowitz’s Tofu Basil Ricotta from Vegan With A Vengeance. The modification that I made was to puree it in a food processor instead of mixing it up by hand. I did this to mimic the smoothness of the melted cheese in Giada’s dish rather than subbing in a crumblier stand-in (which I usually use in my traditional style lasagna). I also made a smaller batch of the lasagna than the original recipe called for because I was only making dinner for two (with leftovers for lunch the next day, of course!).

The beauty of this lasagna is that it is actually fairly easy to make and is ready in less than an hour, but it looks incredibly fancy and it tastes four star. Does it get any better than that?

Asparagus Lasagna
Adapted from Everyday Italian

9 lasagna sheets, fresh or dried, trimmed to fit a 9×9-inch baking pan
1 tsp olive oil, plus 1 tbsp, divided
1 package of sundried tomatoes, rehydrated
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup, plus ½ cup, grated Italian style soy cheese, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
24 stems of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 batch of Tofu Basil Ricotta (recipe follows)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp Earth Balance buttery spread

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta or 2 to 3 minutes for fresh pasta. Drain pasta.
2. While the pasta is cooking, rehydrate the tomatoes in hot water until tender to the touch. In a food processor combine the sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Pulse until the mixture is combined. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup shredded soy cheese. Set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the tofu ricotta, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9×9-inch baking dish place three lasagna sheets, then half asparagus mixture. Next sprinkle some shredded soy cheese on top. Continue for 1 more layer. Top with lasagna sheets, some sun-dried tomato mixture, and shredded soy cheese. Dot the top with butter. Bake until the ingredients are warm and the soy cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

Tofu Basil Ricotta
From Vegan With A Vengeance

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
1 Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
A dash of black pepper

Crumble the tofu into a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

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