As soon as I spotted these scrumptious lasagne rolls on the Post Punk Kitchen blog it was love at first sight. Not only because I love spinach and pasta but because the recipe included a pesto made without parmesan. In fact, these rolls are entirely vegan. I am not a vegan but parmesan contains animal rennet, which has always bugged me. I have eaten it occasionally in the last few years but I enjoy it less every time I do. So a parmesan-free pesto intrigued me. Apart from that, the dish sounded and looked great and it didn’t make a huge quantity, as lasagne recipes tend to do. I usually only cook for two, so that was another bonus. Having said that, these green lasagne rolls are so delicious that they will definitely be making an appearance on my table the next time we have friends over for dinner.
I was also intrigued by other ways in which the PPK had revamped the ‘classic’ spinach ricotta lasagne. There’s the parmesan-free pesto, a béchamel sauce made with soaked and ground cashews and a tofu ‘ricotta’. The result: one of the best damn pasta dishes I have ever eaten. The tofu and spinach filling is light and fresh (there is no distinct tofu flavour, by the way), the pesto has a great, intense flavour and the sauce is gorgeously creamy. I think part of the success of this dish is down to an ingredient I had so far only heard about: nutritional yeast. Not a sexy name and it looks like a bit like dried fish food (I am really selling this one, aren’t I?) but it adds bags of flavour and is even good for you. It is, and I am quoting Wikipedia here, a source of protein and vitamins and a complete protein. It’s one of those ingredients I was always a bit hesitant about but I am sure I will use it regularly from now on.
Another thing I like about this recipe is that you could pretty much prepare everything in advance if you were to make this for guests. The only thing you would have to do at the last minute is cook the lasagne sheets until they are al dente (mine took about seven minutes), fill them, smother in sauce and bung it all in the oven.
I deliberately used bigger lasagne sheets than the PPK because I wanted the rolls to fit in my small baking dish. I absolutely hate crisply baked pasta, so I wanted the sauce to cover the rolls completely. Filling the sheets is not hard but I found that a silicon baking mat is a very handy tool here. Instead of having to pick up the edge of the softened pasta sheet from your worktop when you roll it up, possibly causing it to tear, you can bend the mat so you can just grab the edge. Think of peeling a sticker from a sticker sheet, if that makes sense.
The recipe says nothing about draining the tofu or the spinach but I did a bit. I wrapped the tofu in kitchen towel and squeezed for a bit just to get the excess water out. The spinach I let drain in a colander after wilting and then lightly pressed with the back of a spoon. For me, the rolls turned out perfect this way.
Oh, I will go a bit easier on the salt next time, by the way. It could be the salt content of my nutritional yeast but it was all a bit on the salty side.
I can’t recommend these green lasagne rolls enough! If you are not used to vegan cooking, don’t be put off by what might seem like substitutes. This is a great dish in its own right.
You can find the recipe here.