Lasagna and healthy don’t quite go hand-in-hand. Maybe lasagna and comfort food make a better pairing. What if we told you that you can get all of the flavors of lasagna and all the health benefits of a plant-based, clean eating diet?
A traditional lasagna is layers of noodles (gluten), cheese (dairy), and sauce. Sometimes meat and/or vegetables are added for variety. But for those of us who prefer to avoid gluten and dairy, all hope is not lost. Some simple swaps will make achieving the end product a breeze. Plus, you might find that you like it even better than the original.
Instead of lasagna noodles, we’ve turned to our good friend, the eggplant. Slicing your eggplant lengthwise will yield long pieces akin to sheets of lasagna noodles. Sure, you can try the gluten free lasagna noodles sold in many specialty stores, but we’ve found that they don’t soften up well enough. And if you’re staying away from grains as well, then veggie noodles are your only option. Baking the eggplant sheets first will give you a very tender end result.
To swap out the ricotta cheese typically used in lasagna, we’ve gotten on the nut-cheese bandwagon and are using cashews to make our “ricotta” cheese. Cashews seem to give the best result. All you have to do is soak them in water for at least 4 hours, drain and blend in the food processor. Plain cashew cheese is kind of bland, so we infused ours with lots of basil, lemon, and garlic to make it a pesto-flavored cashew cheese. It makes a killer filling that can double as a veggie dip.
Once all of the components are prepared, assembly is rather quick. Instead of making a typical layered lasagna (which you can do), we decided to turn them into pretty lasagna roll-ups. Add a dollop of the cashew ricotta to one end of the eggplant, roll up, top with marinara sauce and some nutritional yeast for a cheesy topping. If you can tolerate dairy, you can add some fresh Parmesan cheese to the top. As everything is already cooked, all you have to do is heat it for a few minutes in the oven. Finish with some fresh basil leaves and dinner is served!
We saw a different version of this recently by Dr. Mark Hyman. He uses zucchini in his, which we’ve done in a different version of this recipe. Just use thinly sliced zucchini noodles instead of the eggplant. The only difference is that you don’t have to cook the zucchini noodles first.
Here’s the recipe for the eggplant lasagna roll-ups with basil cashew “ricotta” cheese. Let us know what you think!
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in 2 cups filtered water overnight
- 1 cup organic basil leaves
- 1 tbs. nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves garlic
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
- 1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup organic marinara sauce
- 1 Tbs. nutritional yeast (or if not Dairy-free, then use freshly grated Parmesan cheese)
- Drain the cashews in a strainer and place in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely ground.
- Add the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon pepper. Pulse until basil is chopped up and then turn the motor on to blend. Add about 3-4 Tbs. water to help achieve a smoother consistency. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times during the blending process.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle the baking sheet with some salt and pepper. Lay the eggplant slices on top of the baking sheet and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake 10 minutes. Flip and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- To assemble the dish, place eggplant slices on a cutting board. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the ricotta cheese to one end of the eggplant and then roll up the eggplant. Place eggplant roll-ups into a baking dish. Cover with marinara sauce and top with either nutritional yeast or Parmesan cheese.
- Place in oven for 15 minutes.
- Top with fresh baby basil leaves