Vegan Lasagna with Creamy Swiss Chard Filling, Walnut Pesto, and Fresh Roma Tomato Sauce

020Yield: 6 servings

In this lovely summer lasagna–a guest recipe I was asked to create for Tofutti Brands, Inc.–a fluffy and creamy Swiss Chard Filling finds its perfect counterpoints in rich Walnut Pesto; zippy, pleasantly acidic, lightly cooked Fresh Roma Tomato Sauce; and a crunchy topping.

Creamy Swiss Chard Filling (recipe follows)

sea salt

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil

6 dried lasagna noodles

1/2 pound (about 3 large) fresh Roma tomatoes, unpeeled, stem end removed, and halved

3 tablespoons loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup walnut pieces

1 large garlic clove, halved

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Make Creamy Swiss Chard Filling in food processor, transfer mixture to a medium bowl, set aside, and rinse out bowl of  food processor.

Noodles:  Fill a large pot (4-quart)  3/4 full with water, add a tablespoon each of sea salt and olive oil, and bring to a gentle boil.  Add lasagna noodles, partially cover, and simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente, lowering heat if necessary.  Drain and arrange noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet, covered with a kitchen towel to prevent drying out.

Fresh Roma Tomato Sauce:  Place Roma tomatoes in food processor with basil and a pinch of sea salt and process until smooth.  Transfer to a medium (2-quart) saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and most of watery moisture has evaporated; lower heat if necessary to prevent scorching and sticking on the bottom.  Remove from heat.

Walnut Pesto:  Rinse and dry bowl of food processor and add the nuts, garlic clove, and about a 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Pulse until finely chopped and, then, with motor running, drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil to make a thick paste.  Set aside.

Topping:  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet, add bread crumbs and toast, stirring occasionally, until crumbs begin to turn golden brown, lowering heat if necessary.  Add nutritional yeast and continue toasting and stirring for another minute or until crumbs are golden and yeast is fragrant.  Remove from heat.

Assembly:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil the bottom and sides of two 5 x 9″ metal or ceramic loaf pans.   Trim all of the lasagna noodles to fit the length of the pans and then cut the trimmings in half.  Line each of the pans with 2 overlapped lasagna noodles, spread each with 1/4 of the Creamy Swiss Chard Filling, and cover the surface of each with small dollops of 1/4 of the walnut pesto.  Top each with a single lasagna noodle and 1/2 of the noodle trimmings tucked along the sides if desired (or you may discard these).  Repeat layers, ending with a final single lasagna noodle.   Spoon half of the Fresh Roma Tomato Sauce over each, sprinkle with half of the bread crumbs, and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, slice with a sharp serrated knife, and serve.

 Note: if you are watching your calories, this lasagna is equally as successful and delicious without the last lasagna noodle layer  Simply spoon the tomato sauce over the second and final Walnut Pesto layer, top with crumbs, and bake as directed.  In this case, you will need only 6 lasagna noodles.

Creamy Swiss Chard Filling:

1/2 pound stemmed Swiss chard leaves

14 ounces extra firm tofu, drained

8 ounces Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese

Juice and zest of 1/2 large lemon

2 large cloves garlic

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

1/2 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon turbinado sugar (or any granulated sugar)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste

Finely chop Swiss chard in the bowl of a food processor.  Transfer chard to a medium bowl, set aside, and rinse out bowl of food processor.  Place all remaining ingredients in the food processor bowl and process until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary.  Transfer to bowl with Swiss Chard and fold together until completely combined.

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