walnut pesto

weather drama / tofu ricotta lasagna

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IMG_3049You know how people always tell you that they don’t like drama? They’re lying.

The weatherperson stands before a neon map of the United States with a clicker and a bug-eyed expression of terror. “It’s going to be a wet one out there today folks,” he says while waving his hand over a green smudge in Connecticut, “expect flooding in some parts and power outages from the wind gusts”. This is when you start to get excited and check to make sure that your flashlights have fresh batteries in them. “Gusts could be over 40 miles per hour”. You lock all of the windows and check the pantry. Six cans of beans, some mustard, pasta sauce, brown rice, and a hundred other items. But if this system turns into as big of a storm as they’re predicting, there’s no way you’ll be able to survive. Solution? Go to the store and buy water (this is one of those automatic human responses to any type of weather from light rain to a full blown you-need-to-evacuate hurricane). “And the traffic is going to be a doozy too”. Maybe you shouldn’t go on the highway? Although if it’s windy, a tree might fall down, in which case the backroads would be more dangerous than traffic on the highway. You’ll have to wait and see.
Several hours and three raindrops later, you go outside and look at the blue sky with disappointment. “Where’s the storm?” You were so excited to wear your new rain boots, but since you already called in from work, you throw your PJ’s back on and put on the news.
“Steve Jobs didn’t have to die!” says the newsperson dramatically, with the same voice as the guy who does movie previews. Really? Was he murdered, given the wrong medication, or secretly living on a tiny island in the caribbean? “He started his cancer treatment too late”. Seriously? This is a news story? You pretend to want to turn off the news, but another headline catches your eye: “What happened to Lindsay Lohan’s teeth?” they announce. “Sources say that smoking cigarettes are to blame.” Cigarettes make your teeth yellow? What an astonishing breakthrough! After watching for 10 more minutes, you put on Pride & Prejudice, snuggle with your pets on the couch, and allow yourself to get lost in Mr. Darcy’s eyes.
And since you’re staying in and watching a movie, why not whip up some lasagna for those unicorn friends that are stopping by later with bottled water and rain boots?
Growing up, lasagna was always my favorite dish. I remember one day at school, the teacher asked us to write down our favorite food. Most kids put down chocolate, cookies, hot dogs, or hamburgers, but not me. Nope, I was the weirdo who put down lasagna (but it was spelled more like: lazanya). Hey, I was in third grade.
Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta
1 package whole wheat lasagna noodles (I use Bionaturae) or brown rice lasagna noodles
1 large jar of Rao’s marinara sauce, or marinara sauce of your choice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 package button mushrooms, diced
1-2 heads broccoli, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

For tofu ricotta:

2 packages extra firm tofu (I use The Bridge) crumbled
4 T italian seasoning blend or Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle (not sure why they call it this…weird)
1/4 cup + more nutritional yeast (in the bulk section of Whole Foods)
2 T + stock (I use Imagine No-Chicken stock or homemade)
2 T lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

*a note about making the tofu ricotta…I’ve never really measured out these ingredients before, so I’m estimating for you, but taste as you go and see. It should taste salty, cheesy & herbalicious. If not, adjust accordingly.*

Preheat oven to 350. In a large pot, cook pasta noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water, then set aside in a bowl of cool water. In a saute pan, saute onions in olive oil until soft, then add garlic, mushrooms, broccoli and some salt. Cook until soft, just a few minutes. Take off stove and let cool. In a mixing bowl, combine crumbled tofu, seasoning, nutritional yeast, stock (use as much as you need to make a ricotta cheese consistency), and lemon juice. Take out a 9 x 12 baking dish (I use a cast iron or ceramic baking dish), and pour a thin layer of pasta sauce over the bottom of the pan. Now add one layer of cooked noodles, side by side over the sauce. Add half of the veggie mixture and half of the ricotta mixture and pat down lightly and evening over the noodles. Cover with a generous amount of pasta sauce, then repeat the process one more time. Top with a third layer of noodles, and pour the rest of your pasta sauce over top. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast for a cheesy top. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then top with almesan sprinkles and pesto and serve to 6 nervous unicorns.
Optional topping: Walnut pesto
1 cup loosely packed basil, washed and pulled off stems
1/2 cup raw walnuts, toasted (in oven at 350 for 10 minutes or until fragrant)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp miso (I use South River brown rice miso)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & pepper to taste
process ingredients in food processor until just a little chunky…adjust seasonings to preference.
Optional topping: Almesan sprinkles (tastes better than parmesan!)
1/2 cup almonds, toasted (see above toasting procedure for walnuts)
1 tsp + lemon zest
sea salt to taste
process ingredients in food processor until crumbly and reminiscent of parmesan cheese…adjust seasoning to preference.