This is another one of those recipes that had me feeling tripped up over terminology. Lasagna, even a skillet lasagna, is typically made with layers of melty cheese. This one forgoes those layers for the addition of cashew cream, which makes the whole thing creamy/cheesy/etc., but makes it a departure from anything resembling traditional lasagna, too.
So why not label it creamy skillet pasta? I guess in spite of all the deviations I took from tradition, when I was eating the dish it still registered more strongly as lasagna than regular pasta. It’s dense, full of flat layered noodles. It reads as something that might have emerged from the oven, in spite of the fact that it requires no baking time at all. And it has the richness of a celebratory, weekend-worthy pasta centerpiece.
To make the dish, you start by sautéing shallots, garlic, and—if you like—your favorite vegan meat/sausage. I used Beyond Meat beef crumbles, but any vegan beef-style crumble or crumbled sausage (Field Roast, anyone?!) would be great. If plant meats aren’t your thing, you can easily substitute cooked lentils. I prefer the vegan meat because it makes the dish feel like totally authentic comfort food, but both options work nicely.
After the plant meat, shallots, and garlic cook down, you add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, broken lasagna noodles, some water, some dried spices. You let the whole thing simmer, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes (depending on whether you use no boil noodles or not—I’ve now tried both). Stir in cashew cream and a few handfuls of baby spinach, if you like, and voila: a layered, decadent, delicious pasta supper. No boiling noodles separately from other components, no baking required.
The recipe is like a lot of my recipes these days: relatively flexible and unstructured. Lentils vs. beef crumbles, canned tomato sauce vs. marinara from the jar (or heck, homemade), greens vs. no greens, parmesan topping or not: it’s all good. By nature I’m a fairly meticulous cook, but—just as it’s making me value stillness, this DI experience is making me value a little spontaneity and ad-libbing in the kitchen, too. With all of the new structure in my days, I’m coming to appreciate flexibility in other areas of my life more than ever. Cooking included.
Creamy Vegan Skillet Lasagna
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 8 ounces vegan beef style crumbles, crumbled tempeh, or 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 14.5- ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 15- ounce cans tomato sauce, or 3.5 cups of a favorite marinara sauce
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles or regular lasagna noodles, broken into 2-3 inch pieces
- 3/4 cup cashew cream (substitute full fat coconut milk, from the can)
- A few handfuls baby spinach, if desired
- Salt and pepper as needed
- Vegan walnut herb parmesan or store bought vegan parmesan, if desired
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (I use this one, which is 12 inches) over a medium flame. Add the shallots and vegan beef crumbles. Continue cooking for 5-6 minutes, or until the crumbles are browning and the shallots are tender. Add the garlic. Cook for another minute or two, until the garlic is very fragrant, stirring constantly.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, and lasagna noodles to the skillet, along with 3/4 cup water. Mix well, submerging the noodles as best you can. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, then simmer the skillet lasagna for 10 minutes. Stir and make sure all of the noodles are well covered. Simmer for another 5-7 minutes, or until the noodles are tender.
- Stir in the cashew cream and the baby spinach, if you're using. Continue cooking until the greens are tender. Taste the pasta; most sauces are salty, so it may not need any salt, but add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve, with vegan parmesan if you like.
I made this dish on Saturday, feeling more burnt out than I wanted to feel over the weekend, when there’s always so much I’d like to do. It was so special to have a true comfort food meal to dive into on Saturday night—especially since it didn’t require me to spend too much time cooking. And the leftovers were amazing on Sunday, too (ditto in Monday’s packed lunch).
Wishing you comfort and richness as we close out the rest of this week, and I’ll be back over the weekend with the usual roundup!