Tortellini with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

This warm & comforting dish is full of flavor and goodness.

I recently had some friends over for dinner. Prior to the big evening, I had been trying to figure out what to cook for these incredible humans. I knew that I wanted to cook them something special, especially since they had welcomed a beautiful new baby into this. planet. After rubbing my chin, deciding what to create, I thought about some of my personal favorite dishes.
The dish that came to mind was tortellini. Tortellini is one of my all-time favorite foods. This Italian-based pasta is actually closer to being a dumpling, as it typically contains a filling. Not only did I want to incorporate my favorite food into the evening’s meal, but I really wanted to make it…extra special. As I continued to brain storm, the idea of incorporating a warm & savory browned butter sauce, and fresh vegetables became an absolute must. I’m proud to say that the evening dinner was a major hit for all of us-there was definitely some plate licking going on!
While this dish is certainly not going to fall within the low-carb or keto categories, it is very delicious. Think of this like a delightful meal that will be worth biting into. The rich & creamy texture of the tortellini dances beautiful with the fresh vegetables and aromatic butter sauce. This tortellini recipe is perfect for a special evening with friends, or for your next #selfcare day.
Now, let’s move onto the recipe, shall we?
1 16-20oz package tortellini
1/3 stick butter, softened, and two tablespoons butter, separated
6 oz. Asparagus
1 pear
Two packed cups fresh spinach
2-3 fresh sage leaves
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Directions:
1. Take a large pasta pot, fill 3/4 way with water and set it on heat to begin boiling. While water is heating, dice pear into 1/2″ cubes, then set aside.
2. Take the asparagus and chop off the bottom 1/2″ of each stalk. Afterwards, take a skillet, heat to medium, and melt 1 tbsp. butter. Afterwards, place asparagus in skillet, and let brown for 2-3 minutes on each side (covered), and then turn. Asparagus should have light grill marks and a tender bite. Once asparagus is finished cooking, remove from heat, and cut into 1/2″ pieces. Set aside.
3. Use the same skillet for asparagus and add 1 tbsp.  of oil. Add diced pears and sauté for about 4-5 minutes on medium-high or until the pear begins to lightly caramelize.
4. Once water begins boiling, gently add tortellini to pot. Let the tortellini cook for 4-5 minutes or until the pasta begins to float to the top. Pasta will be al’ dente. Drain afterwards and place back in pot. Set aside.
5. Take a small sauce pan, set to medium heat, anyplace 1/3 of softened butter stick into pot. At this point, add and gently mix garlic powder and sage. Allow to continue to cook on medium for about 4 minutes or until the butter begins to boil rapidly and brown. Remove sage from pot.
6. To the pasta, add the brown butter sauce, spinach, asparagus, pear, and cheese, and sit until spinach begins to wilt and cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Makes 6 servings 
Nutrition information per serving:
341 Calories | 11g Protein | 20g Fat | 30.5g Carbohydrates | 2g Fiber


Pasta Primavera-ish!

 A dish that’s so rich and creamy, that you’ll feel like you were in Italy (maybe?!?!)

A couple weekends ago, my fiancé and I wanted to go on a little getaway to this adorable Florida town called Mount Dora. First of all, if you currently live in Florida and have never visited that little town, GO!! Second of all, if you’re planning your next vacation to Florida, consider adding Mount Dora to your list of places to visit. Why? Well, for such a small town with a population of under 14 thousand residents, there is SO much to do!! Here’s some stuff that comes to mind:
·         There’s so much beautiful nature, the area is part of the Harris Chain of Lakes (leading up to Jacksonville!)
·         A lot of great art (including a Modern Art museum with a HUGE collection of David Bowie’s furniture)
·         A serious commitment to small business vitality
·         Over 20 eateries within their downtown area, alone!
It’s just a place that you’ve got to experience, for yourself.
One of the coolest things that we did that weekend was an afternoon food tour, led by John and Paula, the owners and founders of the Taste of Our Town Mount Dora Food tour. During that tour, you learn about Mount Dora’s history, and also get to learn about the town’s diverse culinary landscape. In that DELICIOUS tour, we explored six different eateries, and left with a realm of knowledge and appreciation for Mount Dora’s heritage and gastronomy.
A fun group pic of  the coolest husband and wife: John (left), Paula (second from left), me, and my fience Jeremy! (right)
Out of all the places that we went to on the tour, we hit up this eatery called Olive Branch Mediterranean Bar & Grille. I indulged the heaping sample portion of the Pasta Primavera dish that was served to me. The dish was rich, creamy and felt so incredibly comforting to eat. I was in Heaven, for sure. That dish was so memorable, that I was determined to try recreating it, myself. Since their version was dairy-based, I accepted the challenge of veganizing it and utilizing available ingredients around my kitchen…and boy. Was the dish AMAZING!!!! I really felt like I had made a beautiful replica of the dish, and could NOT stop licking all of the sauce off my spoon, and bowl. It was that delicious. I present you with this delicious, creamy & easy to make sauce!
[pic of the life-changing pasta primavera]
LET ME SHOW YOU HOW I CREATED THIS DELICIOUS REPLICA…keep on reading to learn how I made my Pasta Primavera-ish!!
Ingredients:
8 oz Angel Hair pasta
1 cup thawed frozen peas
2 cups raw spinach
½ cup cashews (raw OR roasted are equally fine!)
1 ½ cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (nooch)
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
½ cup unsweetened pain almond milk
1 tsp miso paste (or ¼ tsp salt)
Directions:
1.       Pasta prep-In large pots, fill about ¾ full with water, and add some salt. Set on medium high to begin boiling. Once boiling, add angel hair pasta, and let it boil for about 6-7 minutes, or until al-dente.
2.       While the pasta is cooking, boil cashews in vegetable broth for 20 minutes in a spate sauce pan (a small sauce pan should do!)  
3.       Add boiled cashews AND broth to blender.
4.       Add the remaining ingredients to blender: tomato paste, nooch, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, unsweetened plain almond milk & miso paste (or salt). Blend on high for about 2 minutes or until the consistency is rich & creamy!
5.       Add the sauce to the drained angel hair pasta, and gradually stir in the peas and the spinach. Let the mixture sit covered for about 3 minutes, until the peas have warmed up.
6.       Enjoy!
Makes 4 servings
Nutritional Information (per serving):
333 Calories/ 9.7g protein/ 18 grams fat/ 37 grams of carbs/6.5 grams fiber


Spinach-Basil Pesto

I will show you how to make my favorite kind of pesto-with a lovely twist!


Last time, I showed you how I make my Creamy Bell Pepper & Carrot Pesto. This time, I’m going to show you how to make more of a traditional pesto-but with a nice little vegan touch.

Before I delve into my yummy recipe, let’s first address a major question: What exactly is pesto? Pesto, or, more formally pesto alla genovese, is a sauce that originates from Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy. Some historians believe that the recipe dates back to the Roman Era, but became a more refined staple around the mid-1800s. The traditional pesto sauce consists of fresh basil leaves, crushed garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, olive oil, and a hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano (think of your classic non-grated Parmesan cheese). The following ingredients are traditionally blended together by finely hand chopping or hand-crushing them down with the utilization a mortar and pestle (pictured below).

Photo courtesy: Artur Rutowski
My recipe has a few exceptions which deviate from a traditional pesto alla genovese. First, this recipe is completely dairy-free and therefore vegan. But don’t worry about missing out on the cheesy bite. Nutritional yeast and lemon juice serve as the perfect substitute for the traditional hard cheese required. As you can see by the recipe title, this recipe also incorporates the utilization of fresh spinach. I understand that not everyone has access to fresh basil leaves, be it because of availability, cost, or a combination of the two factors. The spinach, while light in flavor, serves as a perfectly viable alternative if you have zero access to fresh basil. Finally, this recipe has a 21st century instantaneous twist by relying on a food processor (but if you DO have a mortar and pestle-the traditional mixing tool, it works perfectly, as well! It will just take a tad bit more time and elbow grease to prepare  🙂 ). Nevertheless, this remixed version of the traditional pesto recipe is super simple to prepare. Most of all, the flavor is absolutely delicious! Just like my bell pepper-carrot pesto, this yummy sauce goes wonderfully with pasta or over a baguette, risotto or any other vessel you like to serve your pesto with.

Do you want to know how I make my version of pesto? Keep on scrolling!   

Spinach Basil Pesto

Ingredients:
·         2 packed cups of fresh spinach leaves
·         2 packed cups of fresh basil leaves*
·         3 cloves of garlic
·         ¼ cup of nutritional yeast
·         2 tbsp. lemon juice
·         1 tsp. salt (coarse or kosher is preferred)
·         ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
·         ¼ cup of pine nuts or roasted sunflower seeds
Directions:

1.  In a small skillet, set it on medium high and allow it to preheat for a couple seconds. Take your pine nuts and place them into the skillet and allow them to toast up for about 2-3 minutes until they form a light golden brown around the edges. Stir the nuts frequently in the process. Once the nuts area toasted, remove from heat and set aside. You can skip the toasting step if you are utilizing pre-roasted sunflower seeds. Simply set those to the side.

2.   Take each garlic clove place each clove on the cutting board. Gently place your knife over the garlic clove with the blade resting parallel to the garlic clove (away from you), ball your fist, and smash the knife. Doing so breaks each clove down, while also cracking open the skin. Repeat until all the cloves have been mashed and skin completely unpeeled. Then, coarsely chop each of the cloves until the pieces are roughly about the size of small grains of rice. Set aside.

3.  Blending method 1-Food processor: Take all of your ingredients and add them all into a food processor. Let the mixture pulse for about 2 seconds each time and repeat about 6 times-1 minute until the pesto has a smooth consistency, but still chunky enough to the point where you can see pieces of the spinach and garlic. Stir the mixture in between each pulse.  (do not exceed pulsing over 2 minutes).

4. Blending method 2-Mortar and pestle: First, grind your garlic and salt down with the mortar and pestle for about 30 seconds-1 minute, or until it turns into a chunky mash. Then gradually add in your toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds and mash it down until the garlic/nut mixture forms a paste. Afterwards, gradually add in the basil and spinach, handful by handful and grind that into the mixture until the leaves are very tiny. Gradually, add in the rest of your ingredients, with the olive oil as the last ingredient to add in, and keep mixing everything for a few minutes (3-6), and continue mashing until the pesto has a smooth consistency, but still chunky enough to the point where you can see pieces of the spinach/basil and garlic.

5.     Enjoy over your favorite edible vessel! 🙂

* Note: If you are unable to access fresh basil leaves, substitute the 2 cups of fresh basil for 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves.

Makes approximately 1 cup of delicious pesto (8 ounces)-6 servings

Nutritional Information (per serving):

156 Calories/ 6.2g protein/ 12.5 grams fat/6.9 grams of carbs/3 grams fiber

198% DV Folate, DFE/ 264% DV Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin)/ 202% DV Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin) 115% DV Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)/ 300% DV Vitamin A/ 373% DV Vitamin K/ 17% DV Vitamin C


Creamy Bell Pepper & Carrot Pesto

I will show you how to make my favorite kind of pesto-with a lovely vegan twist!


I LOOOVE pesto…it’s GOT to be one of my favorite type of sauces, hands down. This recipe was really inspired as a result of preventing food waste. About a week ago, I had some bell peppers slowly beginning to wilt in the back of my fridge. I had been trying to figure out how to utilize them, and BAM! I came up with an idea: How about I try ‘sun drying’ the peppers, similarly to how you would with tomatoes? My thought process then evolved into seeing if it was remotely possible to make a pepper pesto. My thought was Why not?

Let me tell you, this pepper pesto has turned into my crack. Slow roasting the peppers brings out the natural sweetness in the peppers. Team that with the creaminess of roasted carrot and garlic, and your taste buds are in Heaven.  The dairy substitution of nutritional yeast and Miso paste gave this a wonderful, rich and savory sense of umami. I actually find this pesto to have an almost cheesy quality to it (something that I was not intending to aim for!). It goes wonderfully with pasta or over a baguette, risotto or any other vessel you like to serve your pesto with! 

In lieu of the sun, I utilized my trusty oven for these peppers. As you’ll see, I let these babies roast for a while. Don’t let the 8 hour oven time intimidate you-these peppers can either be slow-roasted overnight or while you’re at work. This sauce does take some time to prepare from start to finish…but I PROMISE you that it will be worth the wait!


Let me show you how I made this!

Creamy Bell Pepper & Carrot Pesto

Ingredients:
·         5 large colorful bell peppers, or 8-10 miniature bell peppers
·         3 cloves of garlic
·         2 carrots
·         3 tbsp nutritional yeast
·         1 tbsp miso paste
·         2 tbsp lemon juice
·         4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
·         ¼ cup of pine nuts or sunflower seeds
Directions:
1.       Roasted peppers-Preheat oven to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Take each bell pepper and slice directly in half, lengthwise and remove the saps and seeds.  After slicing and de-seeding, take a large baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Place your pepper halves on the parchment paper and drizzle 1 tbsp of the evoo and massage over each of the pepper pieces until they are all oiled. Place baking tray in middle rack and allow the peppers to slow-roast for 7-8 hours, or until the peppers start to wrinkle. Be sure to check them after 7 hours to ensure that they do not burn!

2.       Roasted Carrots and garlic-Preheat oven to 400. Coarsely chop carrots until they are about 2 inches in size. Take your carrots and unpeeled garlic cloves, lightly drizzle with evoo and let them roast for about 20-25 minutes, until the carrots are fork tender. Afterwards, remove them from the oven and gently unpeel garlic clove. Should be relatively fork tender. If its not quite fork tender, leave the cloves in the oven for about 5-6 more minutes. Place your seeds in the oven to roast for the last 5 minutes.

3. Mixin it all-Take all of your roasted veggies and the remaining ingredients and add them all into a food processor. Let the mixture pulse nonstop for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture has the consistency of a smooth  hummus-like consistency.

4.       Enjoy over your favorite vessel of choice! 🙂

6 servings

Nutritional Information (per serving)
194 Calories/ 4.9g protein/ 13.6 grams fat/14.3 grams of carbs/4.4 grams fiber

Fancy-pancy-party-pizza!

I love Pizza. There’s something so delicious and nostalgic about biting into a cheesy slice of Italian goodness. Pizza pies are what brought me and my family together on weeknights. Eating an authentic slice of New York pizza was what drove my insane fiance to have us walk several snowy blocks around Manhattan just to seek the perfect slice of heaven. If I won the lottery right now., one of my bucket-list items would be to go on a gourmet pizza tasting tour around Italy. I’m just sayin’! 😉



Since going plant-based, I have made a very conscientious decision to cut dairy. This, unfortunately means that my fiance and I have stopped visiting local pizzerias (and Italian restaurants). However, i’d rather know that none of my my pizza compromised the welfare of animals. 
With that being said, I decided to make some semi homemade pizza for tonight’s Tuesday dinner. This included the cheese-YES. THE CHEESE. I made two completely vegan pizza cheeses that turned out to be absolutely delicious; The cashew ricotta cheese was so thick and creamy, while the vegan mozz was gooey and melty-just like you’d expect!
Tonight, I made two incredible pizza pies: both had a sun dried tomato pesto base, and were layered with the mozz and ricotta. The second slice, however, went a little crazy with roasted red peppers and (vegan) Italian sausage.

Want to know how I made my gourmet pizza pies?? Let’s jump to the recipe!

—-

Fancy-pancy-party-pizza!

Ingredients:

  • Pack of two thin pizza crusts
  • 2 Field roast Italian sausage links (sliced)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 8 oz jar of sun dried tomato pesto
  • Italian seasoning mix (dried basil, oregano & parsley)
  • One serving of cashew ricotta cheese, chilled
  • One serving of gooey vegan mozz
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Pinch of garlic powder (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. While the oven is preheating, sautee the Italian sausage and bell pepper with the cooking oil over medium-high. Sautee for about 6-8 minutes or until the sausage slices begin to lightly brown, and the peppers begin to wilt. 
Take both pre-made pizza crusts and spoon the entire sun-dried tomato pesto sauce mixture over both slices. You will have enough sauce to cover both pizza pies. 
Take the gooey mozz and gently spoon it over both pies. Make sure that the mozz sauce is cool enough to spread over both pizzas, to prevent yourself from getting burnt. I suggest to spoon several dollops around each pie, and then gently spread it with a spatula or small spoon, as it gets quite gooey. 
After spreading the mozz over both pies, place several large ricotta cheese dollops over both pies, and then sprinkle with Italian/oregano seasoning, for garnish. For the second pie, add the sliced bell pepper and sausage mixture by gently sprinkling it throughout the second pie. At this point, you can also lightly sprinkle a pinch of garlic powder on each pie. 
Once you are done topping both pizzas, place in the oven and allow to bake for about 10-15 minutes or until they reach the golden brown/level of your preferred crispiness. 
(optional step) to make the pizza slightly golden browned on top, broil on high for about 2-3 minutes until it reaches the golden-ness of your liking (watch carefully or the pizza & cheeses WILL burn! 
Once the pies are done baking, take out and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes & then slice and enjoy! 🙂 

Makes approx. 16 slices (total)

Nutrition Information (per slice):

415 calories/ 12.5 g protein/28.13 g fat/ 2.8g fiber


Gooey Vegan Mozz Sauce

So if you know me, know that I am not a huge fan of most of the store-bought vegan cheeses available. Honestly, I think most of them taste like cardboard. My frustration and dissatisfaction with the current variety of store-bought vegan cheeses has driven me on a quest to perfect the art of making delicious & irresistibly homemade plant-based cheese! 


The desire brought me to this gooey cheese sauce recipe. I wanted to find something easy, quick and had the classic, cheesy mozzarella ‘pull’. This search led me to Sam Turnbull’s It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken recipe. The key behind her cheesy concoction was a generous portion of tapioca flour. Yes. Tapioca flour. Stick with me!! The starches and natural chemical composition provides properties that give things a sort -of elastic effect. If you want your plant-based cheese to have a classic cheese & melty ‘pull’, incorporating this magical flour will allow you to achieve this effect. 

Did I tell you that I absolutely love this recipe!?!?!? 

Now, now, now. I will say that while I was heavily inspired by Sam’s delicious recipe, I did make a couple tweaks of this dish, in order to make it my own. Here’s my adaptation of this crack-like sauce:

Gooey Vegan Mozz Sauce

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup soaked cashews (raw cashews are preferable, but I honestly think that soaked roasted cashews worked just as well)
  • 1 ⅓ cup of water (from the soaked cashews)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • 3 roasted or boiled softened & unpeeled garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3.5 tbsp tapioca flour/ tapioca starch

Directions: 

Place all the ingredients into a high speed blender, and blend for about 1-2 minutes until everything is well-blended and turns into a very liquid consistency. (optional) in leiu of having the cashews soak overnight, you can have them boiled on medium-high for 15 minutes, until they become easily softened. 

Transfer the liquid mixture into a small saucepan, and begin cooking this on medium high & stir frequently for about 5 minutes. You will gradually notice that the mixture begins to clump up and turn chunky. Continue mixing vigorously for about 1-2 minutes until the sauce begins to solidify and sauce begins to have a very stretchy, melty consistency. 

Turn stove off and remove sauce mixture from heat & allow to cool off for at least 5 minutes. Enjoy as a dip or on your favorite recipe involving gooey cheese! 🙂 

Makes approx. 8 servings

Nutrition Information:

70 calories/ 2.24 g protein/3.9 g fat/0.5g fiber


Creamy + Tangy Cashew Ricotta Cheese



Since adopting a plant-based diet, I made the personal decision to eliminate dairy products. I’ve never been a fan of milk*, but cheese has been my life’s fuel.

However, as I have been trying to reverse my pre-diabetes, I knew that cutting dairy was one step I had to take to become a healthier human being. I also became detested by the horrorsof the Dairy Industry. With all that being said, I acknowledged that eliminating animal-based cheeses was something that I personally had to do.

But to be honest, as I have transitioned towards eating in a predominatly plant-based manner, I have not really been satisfied with any of the store-brought vegan cheese alternatives-most of them either taste like cardboard, are super processed, or are just too expansive. Hence, I became increasingly frustrated.

That combined frustration has driven me to begin the gradual process of making my own cheeses from scratch! Not only does that result in cutting out the processed junk, but is cheaper too! Creating homemade cheeses also gives me a greater appreciation and connection to the foods I’m consuming.

Let’s jump into the recipe!
Creamy + Tangy Cashew Ricotta Cheese

       Ingredients
·         1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
·         2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
·         1/8 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
·         2 cups raw cashews, soaked
·         1/3 cup reserved water from soaked cashews
·         3 tablespoons of lemon juice
·         2 garlic cloves, or ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder (depending on how garlicky you like your ricotta)
·         Dash of salt and black pepper
Directions:
1. Soaking the cashews: You can either let the cashews soak in cold water ahead of time, for at least an hour, by doing it overnight. IF YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT, you can always soak the cashews for about 15 minutes in boiling water. If this is the step you decide on, make sure to immediately drain the cashews (and reserve ½ cup of the water).

2. In a food processor, combine all of the listed ingredients, and let it pulse, blend for about 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture has the thick consistency and texture of ricotta cheese. You will want to check on the mixture periodically and scrape the sides of the processor a few times.

3. Serve and enjoy! Feel free to add this to whatever savory dish you like!

4. WARNING: This recipe is SO delicious, that you MIGHT just wind up eating this straight from the processor. You have been told.

Note: If you’d rather have a more neutral-flavored ricotta, feel free to do away with the garlic and onion, and black pepper. This way, you can add it to your favorite sweet dishes. You can also sub the olive oil for either a lighter oil, like light olive, grape seed, or avocado oil.

* When I mention milk in this post, I am referring to Dairy animal-based milk from cows, sheep, or goats.

10 servings

Nutritional information per serving:
201g calories/ 7g protein/15g fat/11.5g carbs/ 1.4g fiber
Have you made this? Did you alter this recipe in any way? Comment below! 

Cheesy Vegan Zucchini Lasagna

Unlike your traditional lasagna, this deliciously cheesy vegan zucchini lasagna is different because it is plant-based, and is lower-in carbs (if you’re counting!)

Pictured is a slice of the cheesy vegan zucchini lasagna, topped with fresh basil leaves, served on a medium-sized plate.

THIS. LASAGNA. TOOK. ME. PLACES.

Simply put: I have been craving lasagna for a while, so I was really looking forward to making this. However, unlike your traditional lasagna, this is different because it is vegan, and replaces zucchini for lasagna noodles, which makes this lower-in carbs (if you’re counting!).

This seriously turned out to be one of the most delicious lasagnas that I have ever tasted, and I’m not just saying that because I made it! It’s creamy, delicious, nutty, and extremely filling. Unlike most zucchini lasagnas I’ve had in the past, this one wasn’t soupy, nor did any excess liquid from the zucchini make the dish too wet. The consistency was just right-almost as if I were eating the traditional Italian Dish. The homemade cashew ricotta cheese was not only extremely delicious, but was very helpful in absorbing the excess moisture from the veggies.

Patience is a Virtue

Before I jump into the recipe, I will say that this cheesy vegan zucchini lasagna is going to take some time for you to prepare. Dedicate at least two hours for the preparation of this meal (which will include the ingredient prep and baking time). This dish was made almost completely from scratch, which means that I had to make almost every component with my own blood, sweat, and tears (you get it-I hope!). If you’re into prepping ingredients ahead of time, then you’ll be ahead of the game!

My advice: Patience is a virtue. Trust me. You’ll be licking your plate clean.

Let’s jump to the Cheesy Vegan Zucchini Lasagna recipe, shall we:

Cheesy Vegan Zucchini Lasagna

Ingredients:

For the noodles:

  • 2 medium whole zucchinis or one extra-large zucchini

For the sauce:

  • Two 8 ounce packages of portabella mushrooms
  • 5-6 large plum tomatoes
  • 2 large red bell peppers (or 4 medium bell peppers)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  • ½ large onion, or 1 small onion
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano seasoning
  • 1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil (evoo), divided into two teaspoons
  • Dash of salt & black pepper

For the cashew ricotta cheese:

  • 1 tsp evoo
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1.5 cups raw cashews, soaked
  • ½ cup reserved water from soaked cashews
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, or ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder (depending on how garlicky you like your ricotta)

For the topping:

  • Miyokos brand of Mozzarella cheese (optional, since this is my favorite store-bought vegan cheese)

Directions for the noodles:

  1. Slice the lengthwise with a mandolin. I highly recommend using a mandolin, for consistent slices. However, if you choose to slice these by hand, be sure to slice them no more than about 1/8” in thickness.
  2. These next two steps are optional, but HIGHLY recommended. To help get rid of the excess moisture from the zucchinis, place a large baking sheet with a layer of napkins, and salt the napkins. Then, lay each zucchini noodle slice over the salt, and try to avoid overlapping the slices. Liberally salt over the zucchinis, and let these ‘sweat’ for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, gently run your fingers through each slice over a sink or colander to get rid of the excess moisture and gently place the zucchini back into the pan, and once again avoid overlapping each slice.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the baking sheet(s) with the slices in the oven for ten minutes, to finish drying them off. The zucchini will now be ‘dry’ enough to use for the lasagna without making the dish too wet. Set aside.

For the meat sauce

  1. This step is best to do ahead of time-Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the tomatoes in half, remove the bell pepper caps (with seeds), ad place these, along with the garlic cloves in a baking tray. Drizzle 2 tsp of the evoo over the produce and massage oil throughout. Bake these for about 25-30 minutes until the produce becomes wilted and has beautiful golden brown spots. Then place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until a sauce-consistency forms (I personally like my sauce on the chunkier side)
  2. While the zucchini is ‘sweating’, begin preparing the ‘meat’: coarsely dice the onion (to no more than ½” cubes), dice the garlic cloves into fine pieces, and crumble the portabella mushrooms until they are about ¼” sized pieces. You can either pulse these a couple times in a food processor or crumble them by hand. Up to you.
  3. Drizzle two tsp evoo on a skillet, preheated to medium high. Immediately place mushroom and onion mix into the skillet. Add the salt, black pepper, spinach, red pepper, and crushed oregano seasoning to mixture. Cover for the first 3 minutes to allow everything to wilt, then remove cover and stir mixture frequently for about 7 minutes, until the onions turn translucent, and the portabella begins to lightly brown.
  4. Add roasted tomato sauce mixture to the portabella ‘meat’ and let is simmer on low for about 10 minutes, or until more of the juices from the tomato mixture reduces.

For cashew ricotta:

1. Place all specified ingredients into (cleaned) food processor and let it blend for about 3-5 minutes, or until it has that thick, ricotta mixture. Be sure to check and stir periodically. That easy.

Directions for the Lasagna assembling:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Take an 8” casserole dish, and take about 2-3 tablespoons of meat sauce to spoon at bottom. This will help the lasagna become easy to scoop out (trust me!)
  3. Like any traditional lasagna recipe, gently layer the zucchini noodles, as the second layer. Then add about half or the ricotta mixture and gently spread. Then layer about a third of the meat sauce mixture. Afterwards, layer about 1/3 of the Miyokos mozzarella cheese. Then repeat this step, until you have about 2-3 layers of lasagna. Top with the rest of the sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese. Over with a sheet of aluminum foil
  4. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Afterwards, remove aluminum foil cover and allow to bake for 15 additional minutes.
  5. The hardest step (but a VERY important one!!). Let the lasagna rest for about 10-15 minutes-OR-until you feel like it is cool enough for you to eat.
  6. Quarter this lasagna with a spatula (or knife) and with your spatula, gently take each piece out, and plate.
  7. Devour this dish and enjoy!!!

Makes 4 servings (serving size: 1 hearty slice)

Nutritional information for the Cheesy Vegan Zucchini Lasagna:

502g calories/ 29g protein/51g fat/58g carbs/ 8.5g fiber

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