Kale’s Very Fine Lasagna
Ah, the old Ace in the Hole. The vegan Trojan Horse. The Very Fine Lasagna. When I had one last shot to convince my girlfriend’s parents that I wasn’t a total loser, I brought over this pantheon of Italian comfort and went from zero to hero with one cheesy, meaty lasagna pan of power. This saucy ninja will sneak past the defenses of any die-hard meat-eater, leaving them begging for seconds. -Kale
ONE 12 OZ [340 G] BOX LASAGNA NOODLES
For the Red Sauce
3 TBSP OLIVE OIL
2 RED ONIONS, FINELY CHOPPED
6 GARLIC CLOVES, MINCED
10 ROMA TOMATOES, DICED, OR ONE 28 OZ [800 G] CAN CRUSHED TOMATOES
TWO 6½ OZ [185 G] CANS TOMATO SAUCE
TWO 6 OZ [170 G] CANS TOMATO PASTE
1 LB [455 G] GROUND SEITAN
1 BUNCH FRESH BASIL, STEMMED AND CHOPPED, PLUS MORE FOR GARNISH
1 BUNCH FRESH ITALIAN PARSLEY, CHOPPED, PLUS MORE FOR GARNISH
2 TBSP CANE SUGAR
1 TBSP FENNEL SEEDS
2 TSP ITALIAN SEASONING
½ TSP BLACK PEPPER
For the Assembly
1 VEGAN EGG EQUIVALENT
8 OZ [230 G] VEGAN RICOTTA CHEESE
8 OZ [230 G] VEGAN MOZZARELLA CHEESE OR SIMILAR, SLICED
8 OZ [230 G] VEGAN MOZZARELLA CHEESE, SHREDDED
1 CUP [240 ML] CHEESE SAUCE BASE (RECIPE BELOW)
¼ CUP [25 G] GRATED VEGAN PARMESAN CHEESE (OPTIONAL)
Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C].
Place the lasagna noodles into a 9 by 13 in [23 by 33 cm] baking dish, cover with warm water and a bit of salt, and let sit for 20 minutes until malleable. Drain and set the noodles aside.
Meanwhile, to make the red sauce: In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once heated, add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste, stirring well to combine. Add the seitan, basil, parsley, sugar, fennel, Italian seasoning, and black pepper. Stir well, then season with salt.
Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes (or as long as you have time for; the longer the better, up to 2 hours).
To assemble: Grease the same 9 by 13 in [23 by 33 cm] baking dish with olive oil or nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, mix the vegan egg with the vegan ricotta, whisking well to combine.
On the bottom of the greased baking pan, evenly spread about 3 cups [720 g] of the prepared red sauce. Layer six lasagna noodles lengthwise over the red sauce, overlapping slightly. Evenly spread the ricotta mixture over the lasagna noodles. Layer half of the sliced vegan mozzarella over the ricotta. Ladle another 3 cups [720 g] of red sauce on top of the mozzarella. Repeat the layers once more.
Top with the shredded mozzarella, cheese sauce, and vegan Parmesan. Cover the pan with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Garnish with minced basil and parsley and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoy within 1 week.
If possible, let the assembled, unbaked lasagna sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to combine.
Cheese Sauce Base
My journey through the world of vegan cheese began with this recipe, and I still make gallons of it every week at the Herbivorous Butcher. I encourage you to experiment with different ratios, binders, and emulsifiers—you never know what sort of magic you can create. —Kale
2¾ CUPS [660 ML] UNSWEETENED SOY MILK
2 CUPS [480 ML] REFINED COCONUT OIL, MELTED
1 TSP WHITE WINE VINEGAR
1 TSP FRESHLY SQUEEZED LEMON JUICE
⅓ CUP [45 G] TAPIOCA FLOUR
3 TBSP NUTRITIONAL YEAST FLAKES
2 TBSP SALT
2 TSP WHITE MISO PASTE
In the carafe of a blender, combine the soy milk, coconut oil, vinegar, lemon juice, tapioca flour, nutritional yeast, salt, and miso. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula.
Empty the contents of the blender into a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sauce is glossy and registers 180°F [82°C] on a probe thermometer. To prevent burning, use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan constantly as the cheese begins to congeal and thicken.
Serve immediately or store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Pro Tip 1
In some recipes, ingredients can be replaced and changed, but the soy milk and coconut oil in this recipe are vital for its success. Preferably the soy milk you choose will have just two ingredients: soy milk and water. Ingredients like carrageenan and other additives when not used on purpose can adversely affect the end result. At the very least, get one without any added sugar. The coconut oil must be refined—that is, without the flavor and aroma of coconut. If the label reads “virgin,” it’s usually unrefined, which will leave your cheese sauce tasting a bit more tropical than intended.
Pro Tip 2
Feel free to play around with the amount of tapioca flour you use. Adding more will simply produce a thicker sauce. And don’t let anyone tell you differently—the thickness you prefer your cheese sauce to be is your own damn business!
Reprinted from The Herbivorous Butcher Cookbook: 75+ Recipes for Plant-Based Meats and All the Dishes You Can make with Them by Aubry and Kale Walch, with Sandra Soria and Danny Seo, with permission from Chronicle Books, 2022. Photographs © Rikki Snyder.