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When I became a vegetarian 11 or so years ago, the first thing I missed was tacos (because, duh, tacos) and second was pasta dishes like spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. This many years later, I don’t even think about meat-filled dishes, and the cravings are completely gone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want versions of them once in a while.
Luckily, not eating meat does not mean missing out on flavor. Substitute beans for taco meat, have vegetable lasagna instead. Or if you’re vegan or like to eat vegan once in a while, try a cheese-free lasagna, like this vegan cauliflower alfredo pesto lasagna that has no meat or dairy but is still bursting with flavor.
The recipe comes from Explore Cuisine, a company that makes bean-, lentil- and rice-based pasta. Explore teamed up with Liana Werner Gray, a nutrition coach and author of the best-selling cookbook “Cancer-Free with Food,” for this recipe, which is high in fiber and protein. It’s also full of veggies and spices, and it uses green-lentil lasagna sheets for an extra boost of gluten-free, plant-based protein.
Being the pasta-lover that I am, it might surprise you that I am not efficient in making lasagna and have honestly done it maybe once in my life. So it took me a bit longer than the 20 minute assembly time on the recipe. In spite of that, the recipe itself was incredibly easy to follow and goes together just like a normal lasagna.
This dish smelled completely amazing while it baking (which took about 40 minutes). Here’s what it looked like before I popped it into the oven:
While mine didn’t look exactly like Explore Cuisine’s picture (you can see my final result below), I’m guessing the taste was similar enough.
I could not find Milkadamia or any brand of macadamia nut milk, so I ended up using unsweetened almond milk.
As for the taste, “nutty” would be the best way to describe it. While I expected the pesto to be overpowering, it wasn’t. The pine nuts and nutty flavor of the nutritional yeast blended into the olive oil and basil seamlessly to create the vegan pesto. The garlic and spices in this recipe pack a punch, and it’s possible that for some palates, they could be overpowering. Lucky for me, I love every ingredient, so combining them was a total win.
It was a bit dry for me, but adding more sauce would easily fix that. You cannot taste the spinach or cauliflower, so those are just an added veggie boost.
Did it taste like a traditional lasagna? Not even close. Because there is no cheese or tomato sauce, this is not a dish to make if you’re craving classic marinara. If you’re looking for something totally different and flavorful, though, I would definitely recommend giving it a try.
Check out the full recipe below:
Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo Pesto Lasagna
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup spinach
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Vegan Alfredo sauce:
1 tablespoon Nutiva buttery coconut oil
2 teaspoons crushed garlic (2 cloves garlic)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup unsweetened Milkadamia (no vanilla)
2 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cauliflower pieces
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven at 375 F.
Make the pesto by combining all ingredients in a food processor until emulsified.
Make the Alfredo sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat the buttery coconut oil on medium heat. Add minced garlic and sliced shallot. Cook until fragrant and golden. Stir in macadamia nut milk and vegetable broth. Increase heat and bring to a low boil. Add cauliflower pieces, bring back heat to medium, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until cauliflower is soft.
In a blender, add the ingredients from the saucepan, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, olive oil, spices, sea salt and pepper. Blend on high until creamy and smooth, about five minutes.
Now it’s time to assemble the lasagna. With a baking dish, ideally a square one, add a layer of Alfredo sauce so the tray is just covered, not too much. The sheets need plenty of sauce to properly cook through. Add the first layer of uncooked green lentil lasagna sheets, then another layer of Alfredo sauce and the first layer of pesto sauce.
Add the second layer of lasagna sheets, followed by another Alfredo layer and pesto. Place the final layer of lasagna sheets on top with the final layer of Alfredo sauce. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast and pine nuts on top.
Bake in the oven at 375 F for 40 minutes until the noodles are cooked through. Tip: the key is to use plenty of sauce to make sure the lasagna sheets cook through.
Will you be giving this recipe a try?