Mediterranean Vegan Lasagna with Roasted Eggplant, Red Peppers and Zucchini

This creamy, dreamy lasagna is made without an ounce of dairy, gluten or guilt. Instead, we layer savory roasted vegetables with cashew “ricotta," then smother it in a savory Mediterranean-inspired tomato sauce.

Not only is this meal going to make your taste buds dance, but it is full of good nutrition to leave you feeling energized. Before we get cooking, let’s take a look at all the nutritional benefits these layers of veggies will bring.


Eggplant

Vibrant colors in vegetables indicate an abundance of health-promoting phytochemicals, and eggplant is no exception. The deep purple color in the skin comes from anthocyanin, a pigment with incredible antioxidant potential. This antioxidant activity provides anticancer effects. Multiple animal studies have identified anthocyanin as effectively suppressing cancer cell growth and inflammation (1). Eggplant also contains an element that can help stabilize glucose levels in diabetic patients and prevent large spikes in blood glucose (2). Additionally, eggplant has been studied for its heart protective actions (3), with anthocyanin showing promise in improving lipid profiles and platelet function (4).

Red Peppers

We double down on the antioxidant potential of this dish by adding red bell peppers. Among sweet peppers, red bell peppers are highest in phenolics and beta-carotene (5), both being abundant sources of antioxidant activity. Beta carotene, a component of Vitamin A, is responsible for the beautiful, bright red pigment of these peppers. Because of these rich properties, red bell peppers have demonstrated significant potential to prevent disease. The antioxidants help to prevent free radicals and oxidative stress, both precursors to chronic disease (6). Additionally, red bell peppers have the ability to reduce cholesterol oxidation (5), which leads to buildup on artery walls.

Zucchini

Zucchini contains an incredible amount of cancer-fighting micronutrients, including Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It has been shown to have high anti-inflammatory abilities and even antiviral and anti-microbial properties (7). Carotenoids are components of Vitamin A. The carotenoids present in zucchini include lutein and zeaxanthin, two naturally occurring compounds that help promote eye health and reduce the risk of cataracts (8).

Vitamin C has long been studied for its role in disease prevention and treatment. It is required in an array of bodily functions, including protein synthesis and cholesterol metabolism. It also serves to increase the absorption of iron, which is essential to blood healthy. As if that weren’t enough work, Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from free radicals and environmental toxins (9).

Choosing the Right Ingredients

Whenever possible, always choose organic ingredients. Starting with healthy, sustainably-grown ingredients will help provide the building blocks to build a strong foundation for your health. If buying all organic is not an option, prioritize by using the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. They’ve evaluated the pesticides present in common produce and ranked them so you can prioritize your shopping list. Bell peppers and tomatoes are on the Dirty Dozen list, so try to buy them organic.  Eggplant finds itself on the Clean Fifteen list, meaning that even conventionally grown eggplant is low in pesticide residues.

In this recipe, we are using canned tomatoes. When shopping for canned food, be sure to look for BPA-free cans. BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a commonly used chemical plastic and canned products. It has been linked to endocrine disorders, infertility, hormone disruption and some cancers (10). Another consideration is the sugar content in canned tomatoes. Almost all “tomato sauce” contains added sugar, which is why we choose “crushed tomatoes” instead. The ingredient list should not contain any sugar.

Mediterranean Vegan Lasagna with Roasted Eggplant, Red Peppers and Zucchini

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced 1/4” rounds

  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and sliced

  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4” lengthwise

  • ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • 1 t herbs de provence

  • 1 t garlic powder

  • 1 t onion powder

  • 2 cups organic crushed tomatoes

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped

  • 1 t thyme, chopped

  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F

  2. On a sheet pan, toss eggplant with 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper then spread into an even layer

  3. On a separate sheet pan, toss red peppers and zucchini with 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper then spread into an even layer

  4. Roasted vegetables in oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through

  5. In a food processor of high speed blender, pulse the cashews with herbs de provence, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste

  6. In a saute pan, heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil over medium high heat

  7. Add minced garlic and saute 1 minute, until fragrant then add crushed tomatoes, rosemary and thyme then bring to a low boil

  8. Remove vegetables from oven and carefully peel skin from peppers

  9. In a 8x8 baking dish, scoop 1/2 cup tomato sauce onto the bottom then layer ingredients in this order: eggplant slices, red pepper slices, zucchini slices, cashew ricotta, tomato sauce, until all ingredients are used

  10. Top with remaining sauce and bake 15-20 minutes, until bubbly

  11. Allow to cool slightly then slice and serve, garnished with cilantro