With Eggplant Noodles and Cashew Cream
I know, I know. How in the world can lasagna taste amazing when you take away the noodles and the cheese? But, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how delicious this Whole30 lasagna tastes. This from the guy who last week said he didn’t like eggplant. But… I also said “unless it’s covered it in sauce” – which, by the way, is the real reason why this recipe works so well!
This is the perfect kind of dish when serving a crowd. Not only is it Whole30 compliant, but it’s also gluten-free and dairy-free. And trust me, no one will care!
What the Heck is Cashew Cream?
It sounds weird. And I was a skeptic. But this stuff really worked! I had heard of cashew cream in the past, but really had no desire to try it. The only reason I chose to this time is because of my desire to come as close to traditional lasagna as possible. And it totally looks, and tastes, like a cheese layer! Just make sure you soak your raw cashews the night before. Super simple to make.
I love cooking my sauce in a Dutch oven. It’s basically a large cast iron pot with a ceramic lining. It’s perfect for anything you want to cook for a long time – like pot roast or stew. I also highly recommend using a v-blade mandoline slicer for the eggplant “noodles.” It’s both easier and more consistent than using a knife.
Be Patient. Let it rest.
Now to everybody’s least favorite part of the process. Once your lasagna is all done cooking, take it out of the oven, and walk away! The longer you let it rest, the more likely it will hold together when slicing. I would say a minimum of 30 minutes, but a solid hour of rest time is best. Please don’t throw tomatoes.
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef
- ½ cup minced onion
- 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms - finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp. dried basil leaves
- ½ tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- 2 large globe eggplants - cut lengthwise into 20-1/4-inch slices
- 2 boxes frozen spinach
- fresh nutmeg
- 2 cups raw cashews - soaked overnight in 4 cups water
- In a Dutch oven, cook ground beef and onions over medium heat until beef is browned. Then add mushrooms, garlic, and balsamic vinegar and cook until juices from mushrooms have evaporated. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile - Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with nonstick spray and place eggplant pieces in single layer. Season both sides of eggplant slices with sea salt. Bake for 10 minutes (until tender and beginning to brown) turning halfway through. Remove from oven and allow eggplant to cool. Can be roasted 1 day ahead and refrigerated.
- Make cashew cream - Soak 2 cups of cashews in 4 cups of water overnight. Drain the water in the morning. Transfer soft cashews into a blender with 2 cups of new, warm water and puree in a blender until smooth. Set aside.
- Defrost frozen spinach. Drain and squeeze out all liquid (don't be fooled, there's a lot). Place in large bowl and break apart thoroughly. Season with a bit of nutmeg and mix well.
- Assemble in a 9 x 13 glass dish. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. Add a layer of meat sauce (about 2 cups). Then a layer of 9-10 eggplant noodles. Then gently and evenly spread a layer of cashew cream. Take half of the spinach and break up into an even layer atop the cashew cream. Repeat all steps. Then finish the top with a layer of sauce, and then a layer of cashew cream. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Then switch oven to low broil setting and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Cut with a sharp knife and scoop out with a spatula.
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