The other day, I saw these raw cashews at the store and couldn't resist.
I’m reasonably sure most people have never uttered that sentence.
At some point over the past winter, I had invited some friends over for giant stuffed pasta shells, like any normal night of me trying to feed people, and decided I didn’t have, nor did I really want – the usual Ricotta cheese that should go in them. So I decided to wing it and replace the Ricotta with cashew cream (still keeping the Parmesan in) since, in taste and texture, it’s basically Ricotta’s brother-from-a-plant-mother.
I rated the resulting dish on a scale of one to rocked-my-oven-mitts-off. All present gave it a top score.
Since then, I’ve been wanting to do the cashew switcheroo (Let’s all start calling it that. It’ll be a thing.) with another recipe, but then it started to warm up and winter comfort food was out. Or so we thought.
For no greater reason than why not eat lasagna? my cashew “Ricotta” is now back, married to the tart and lively goat cheese, and is zesting up my kitchen under a blanket of aromatic homemade sauce.
I think it should probably do the same thing to your kitchen.
Cashew-Goat Cheese Stuffed Lasagna
To make sauce and filling for 4 dishes:
8 whole-wheat lasagna noodles
One 29 oz can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
3 T. tomato paste
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. of the wine you’re serving with dinner (optional! I usually add a bit of red, though. Just FYI…)
Handful chopped fresh basil leaves, if available
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach
1 ¾ cups raw cashews (preferably soaked 4 hours in water + drained)
¼ cup almond milk (up to ½ cup + other milk works, too)
One 3.5 oz package crumbled goat cheese (for vegans, it’s possible to use another vegan cheese or just use a little more cashews.)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, chili pepper flakes to taste
About ¾ cups shredded parmesan or Romano cheese.
Do Not Panic.
The directions may look lengthy – I go into a bit more detail on this recipe just for clarity’s sake, but once you have a read through and understand what to do, this is a really straightforward and simple recipe to tackle! I send only happy-cooking vibes! :)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of salted, boiling water about 9 minutes, until tender, but not overly done. Like just barely al-dente. Turn off stove and remove each noodle to a large bowl or plate with tongs, and set aside. (You can lightly spray each layer of noodles with cooking spray if you are setting them on top of each other and are worried that they’ll stick.)
In a food processor, puree the pre-soaked cashews with the almond milk until it forms a thick paste with nearly the consistency of Ricotta cheese. Blend in the goat cheese. We’ll come back to this in a moment.
Preheat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan over medium heat. When warmed, in about 2 minutes, add the chopped onions, with some salt and pepper. Sauté about 2-3 minutes, and then add the minced garlic, sautéing 1 minute more.
Remove about ¾ of the mixture to a separate bowl, and to the ¼ left in the pan, add the baby spinach and a little of the fresh basil and cook 1-3 minutes, stirring it with the onions and garlic until it is cooked down and wilted.
Transfer the spinach mixture to the food processor that has the cashew-goat cheese blend in it. We’ll come back to that after finishing the sauce.
Put the pan back over medium heat, replace the reserved onion mixture, and pour in the can of fire-roasted tomatoes. To this, add the above spices to taste, the tomato paste, and wine (if using.) Cook together until combined and slightly bubbling, about 3 minutes more. Add the rest of the chopped fresh basil now. Be sure to do a little taste-test for seasonings before moving on.
Turn off the stove top and ladle all but about ½ a cup into a blender, and puree until fairly smooth. You’ll be using this puree for the sauce, and adding about 2 T. of the remaining chunky sauce on top of each dish.
Puree the spinach and cashew cream mixture – with a good amount of the spices – until just blended + creamy.
Assembly. In each of four oven-proof personal-sized bowls or ramekins, spread about 2 T. of pureed sauce on the bottom. Lay out one noodle, and place about 2-3 T. or so of the cashew filling in the lower third of the noodle. Fold the middle third of the noodle over the filling, and place another 2-3 T. on that, finally folding the last third back over the top. (The picture will help with that visualization). Do this with 2 noodles per ramekin.*
Evenly pour sauce to cover the noodles in each ramekin completely, and top with a little of the chunky sauce. Put a small handful of parmesan cheese on top of each one, and place on a baking sheet with rims. Transfer – CAREFULLY, for the love of Gouda, into the preheated oven. Set timer for 15 minutes. Once done, if the cheese on top isn’t yet browned, don’t bake longer, you’ll only dry out the cashews – set to a low broil and TIME for 2-3 minutes at most. If you don’t set a timer you might have Lasagna Flambé.
…not that I’ve ever set anything on fire with my broiler… anyway…
Serve hot with a nice side of cooked veggies or salad!
*I should note, it’s also possible to do this recipe in one large casserole dish – just use a square one about 8x8 inches, and increase baking time to 20 minutes.