Who didn’t love the comic strip and television cartoon about that fat orange cat who seemingly lived for the sole purpose of shipping dogs off to Abu-Dabi? More importantly, who doesn’t love a good lasagna?
I used to take great pride in finding the perfect ratio of mozzarella to ricotta to tomato sauce to pasta. Then, I realized that putting 4 tablespoons of spinach into a 12-serving tray did not a healthy dinner make. Lasagna is comfort food, and with my discovery of vegan ricotta cheese, seemed like a good idea to me. This recipe has two components, first is a tofu-ricotta made with a food processor. This ricotta would be suitable for a baked ziti, or even on top of a vegan pizza with lots of garlic.

Vegan Ricotta Cheese
I looked at a few recipes online, but they all seemed to use A LOT of olive oil, which kind of defeats the purpose of using tofu as a low-fat alternative to the ricotta. So, I reduced the olive oil and then when I was having trouble getting the mixture to blend, added a few tablespoons of unsweetened soy milk. Your goal is to get something with a thick but spreadable consistency.
5 oz. of firm tofu, drained and cubed
3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. pine nuts
salt and fresh ground black pepper
soy milk to blend

1. drain and cube tofu, chop garlic cloves into quarters
2. combine tofu, olive oil, nutritional yeast, oregano, and pine nuts and blend by pulsing on and off for a few seconds at a time
3. add a few tablespoons of soy milk until you achieve a creamy consistency
4. stir in salt and pepper by hand (just a dash of both)

Vegetable Lasagna
The addition of spinach and mushrooms not only packs in extra servings of vegetables, but the mushrooms give the whole dish a meaty texture.
5 lasagna noodles
1.5 c. tomato sauce (I will post my recipe later)
2/3rds of the ricotta mixture above
2 c. sliced mushrooms
1/2 c. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 tomato

1. in a large pot, bring water to a boil and drop lasagna noodles in one at a time. Cook until tender, drain, and let cool. Cut the lasagna noodles in half (I used my handy kitchen scissors)
2. mix thawed frozen spinach into the tofu ricotta
3. coat the bottom of a pie plate with a few tablespoons of tomato sauce to prevent sticking. Lay 3 of your half-sized noodles on top of it
4. spoon out 1/3rd of the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta, and cover with a layer of sliced mushrooms
5. cover the mushrooms with a half cup of tomato sauce
6. repeat a layer of pasta, ricotta, mushrooms, and sauce. Your final layer will just be 3 noodles and then half a cup of tomato sauce.
7. arrange tomato slices on top and sprinkle with dried basil (or fresh if you have it on hand)
8. bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes and enjoy

Servings: 4 servings at 322 calories each

The verdict: I was not impressed with my tofu ricotta when it was raw. Even with the garlic and nutritional yeast, it tasted a little bland, but that is a natural trade-off when you reduce the oil in a recipe. However, once everything was cooked together with the mushrooms and spinach, it tasted  exactly like the real thing. Real ricotta looses some of its flavor when you put it in a dish, but the secret must be that tofu ricotta actually gets better.