The ultimate vegan lasagna recipe for a family feast on Meatless Monday

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​​No one's saying you have to go meatless just because it's Monday -- but as incentive to join the growing movement, every week we're offering an animal-free recipe.

Like all of the recipes we've featured here, vegan lasagna isn't difficult to make. It does have a lot of ingredients, though, so making it can be a little time-consuming. But we guarantee that anyone who tastes this lasagna -- vegan or not -- will rave over the results. In other words, it's well worth the effort.

Fair warning: This is an epic post. You might want to use the printer-friendly button to streamline all of the instructions on one page before attempting to follow along in real life. Here the the components:

One batch of homemade tomato sauce (recipe to follow) One batch of cashew ricotta (recipe to follow) A sprinkling of vegan Parmesan (recipe to follow) One pound of lasagna noodles Salt to taste One batch of vegan cream (recipe to follow)

There is quite a bit of tofu in this recipe. Do yourself a favor and spend an extra buck or two for organic, non-GMO tofu. Monsanto has no place in this lasagna!

Let's start with the sauce.

You will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil 8-10 cloves garlic 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes (try to get Cento or another Italian brand) 1 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1 1/4 teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon salt freshly ground black pepper 1 can ripe black olives (optional -- can be replaced/supplemented with 1 cup mushrooms, a couple of handfuls of baby spinach, sliced squash or any other vegetables)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. 2. Press the garlic into the heated olive oil. Saute the garlic for about a minute, but be careful not to let it burn. 3. Add the two cans of tomatoes to the sauteed garlic. Use the back of your ladle, a wooden spoon -- whatever you've got -- to crush each of the tomatoes against the side of the pot. 4. Add the thyme, oregano, salt and black pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover and allow it to work quietly for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

This would be a good time to preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and start boiling the pasta water.

Get out your salt and your pound of pasta noodles. 5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a pinch of salt. (This will take a while, so keep an eye on it while you continue to work on the rest of the elements.) 6. Drain the can of black olives. (Or prep whatever other vegetables you'd like to add to the sauce.) Chop them roughly on a cutting board... ...and add them to the sauce after it's been simmering for about ten minutes. Stir in the veggies and let the sauce continue to cook for another five to ten minutes while you work on the cashew ricotta. You will need:

1 cup raw cashew pieces 5-6 lemons (1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice) 1/4 cup olive oil 4 cloves fresh garlic 2 pounds firm tofu 1 tablespoon dried basil 1 tablespoon salt

First, zest one of the lemons until you have about 1 teaspoon of lemon zest; set aside (in a small food processor or on a plate). 7. Slice all your lemons in half. Squeeze them into a measuring cup until you have 1/2 cup of lemon juice. (You can use a fork to fish out any seeds.) 8. Place the cashew pieces and garlic in a large food processor. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, basil and salt. Drain -- but don't press -- the tofu, and crumble both pounds into the food processor. Blend the ricotta until it's smooth and all the ingredients are fully combined. Meanwhile, have you been checking your pasta water? It's probably boiling by now. Add your lasagna noodles and a little bit of oil to keep them from sticking and cook until al dente. (Watch them; you don't want them to get soggy!)

Time to assemble the vegan Parm now. You will need:

A heaping 1/4 cup of almonds 1/2 to 1 teaspoon lemon zest (which you should have gathered earlier) 1 tablespoon tahini A pinch of salt

9. Assemble your four ingredients in a small food processor. Mix until crumbly.

Your noodles should be done by now, so it's time to start assembling this bad boy. Grab a nine-by-thirteen-inch lasagna pan.

10. Spread a spoonful or two of sauce on the bottom of the pan to keep the noodles from sticking. Add a layer of noodles on top of the thin layer of sauce (about 1/3 of all the noodles). Top the noodles with about half the ricotta mixture. (Use a spoon to spread it out.) Spread about one third of the tomato sauce over the ricotta. Next, another layer of noodles. (The second third!) Distribute the rest of the cashew ricotta over the noodles. Evenly spoon about half of what's left of the sauce over the ricotta. Add the final layer of noodles. Hopefully yours look nicer than mine, but if not, don't worry -- no one will be able to tell in the final product. Spread the rest of the tomato sauce over the top of the noodles. Sprinkle your Parm mixture on top of the lasagna. 11. Cover the lasagna with a double layer of foil and place in the oven to bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

But you're not done yet! We're making some cream to spread on top....

You will need:

1 pound silken tofu 1/2 cup pine nuts 1 lemon 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder 1 clove garlic A pinch of grated nutmeg Salt and pepper to taste

12. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a measuring cup or into a food processor. Place the pine nuts, garlic, arrowroot powder, nutmeg, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a food processor. Add the tofu (drained, not pressed). Mix until smooth and creamy. 13. Pull out the lasagna after half an hour to 35 minutes and remove the foil. 14. Spread the cream evenly over the top of the lasagna. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cream is golden-brown. Let this masterpiece sit for ten to twenty minutes before cutting it. Serve it up with a simple salad and some garlic bread.

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