Vegan spinach lasagna rolls are a perfect way to enjoy all of the comfort food goodness of lasagna in an adorable, easier-to-serve package.
With only a few more days before the Christmas holiday and the winter solstice, I thought it might be a good day for some classic comfort food.
These vegan spinach lasagna rolls are my new favorite make-ahead, freezer-friendly, cozy meal.
The rolls have all of the goodness of regular lasagna. This includes red sauce, a vegan “ricotta” filling, and tender lasagna sheets. But they’re easier to portion and serve than regular lasagna is. And they cook in less time.
I can’t think of a better, stress-free option for holidays or special occasions. And while I love the addition of spinach to the “ricotta,” you can modify the rolls to include lots of different vegetables.
Why lasagna rolls?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a traditional lasagna. So, why lasagna rolls?
In addition to being pretty to look at (and pretty when you slice them), vegan lasagna rolls have a few advantages over a regular, layered lasagna.
For one thing, they’re a lot easier to portion and serve! I never manage to slice lasagna evenly, and I always make a huge mess of things when I’m trying to get that first slice out of the pan.
With the lasagna rolls, you simply scoop two or three out of a dish and onto a plate. No slicing required, and no splatters or mess as half of a piece of lasagna topples off your spatula.
The vegan spinach lasagna rolls also cook more quickly than regular lasagna. I usually leave lasagna in the oven for 45-60 minutes. These are ready in 30-35.
In addition, there’s no resting time for the lasagna rolls. When I make regular lasagna, I always give it about half an hour to sit after it comes out of the oven, so that it’s not too sloppy when I slice into it.
No such wait time here: you can plate and enjoy the rolls right away.
Vegan spinach lasagna rolls, step by step
Many of the same tips that apply to making regular lasagna apply to the lasagna rolls. (I like all of the noodle-cooking tips here, as well as the recommendation to have extra sauce handy.)
And, like regular lasagna, making the rolls is a bit of a process. But it’s a fun process. Here are the major steps:
Make your vegan “ricotta”
I’ve been making tofu “ricotta” for a long time. It shows up in the shells in Power Plates and in this summery lasagna.
Ever since making this eggplant baked rigatoni, though, I’ve gotten in the habit of putting cashews in my ricotta, along with the tofu. I love the richness and creaminess that the cashews contribute. I think they give the “ricotta” a much more authentic texture.
Same rules that go for cashew cheese go for making this ricotta. Be patient. Allow everything to spend enough time in the food processor to get a creamy, even consistency. And use some nutritional yeast, salt, and lemon for seasoning.
Once the ricotta is ready, you’ll cook, drain, wring out (to remove excess moisture) and add some frozen spinach.
Boil your noodles
Use lasagna noodles that are about 10-inches long for this recipe. I’m usually a fan of the De Cecco no. 1 lasagna noodles for regular lasagna, but the wide, short shape doesn’t work for rolling.
In this recipe, I used Barilla’s wavy lasagna noodles. They’re just the right size.
Be sure to boil your lasagna noodles in salted water, without adding any oil to the pot. And it’s helpful to give them a cold rinse as soon as they finish cooking.
Prepare your lasagna sheets
Once the lasagna noodles are cooked, you’ll cover them with ricotta and marinara on a work surface. I like using a baking dish or a big, rectangular sheet of either parchment paper or aluminum foil for this part.
Spread each noodle with 1/4 cup of the spinach and ricotta mixture, followed by a heaping tablespoon of marinara. A small, offset spatula is useful for spreading the toppings around.
Roll & arrange
Once the lasagna noodles have been covered with the ricotta and sauce, you’ll roll them up. Have the noodles arranged so that the short edge is facing you, and roll from the bottom up.
Right before you start assembling and rolling, you’ll place some marinara sauce into the bottom of your 9 x 13 baking dish. Once you’ve got some rolls assembled, you can arrange them in the rectangular baker. You should have about 12-16 rolls in total.
The vegan spinach lasagna rolls don’t need too much oven time. Thirty or thirty-five minutes in total is just fine.
I recommend baking them with a foil covered for the first fifteen minutes, then removing the foil so that the sauce on top can thicken up a bit as they finish cooking.
Time-saving tip: use store-bought marinara
I love using a homemade vegan “ricotta” in this recipe. It’s a little less expensive than purchasing two or three containers of store-bought vegan ricotta (which is the amount you’d need). And I think the flavor is even better.
Marinara, on the other hand? These days, I leave it to the pros. Rao’s and Michael’s of Brooklyn are my two favorites.
It’s not that I don’t love making a good, old-fashioned, long-simmered marinara at home. I do. But no matter how much labor and love I pour into my batches, professionally made marinara is usually better than mine.
In this recipe, and others, using a store-bought sauce is the single shortcut that makes the entire dish feel faster, and more doable. That counts for a lot these days.
Can vegan spinach lasagna rolls be frozen?
They sure can! Make-ahead and freezer-friendly potential is one of the things I love most about this dish.
You can bake the rolls and freeze half once they’re out of the oven. Or, you can make the entire recipe and freeze: it’s up to you and your schedule. The rolls will keep in the freezer for up to six weeks.
Other ways to make ahead:
- Prepare the tofu and cashew ricotta up to three days in advance
- Assemble the rolls, cover, and store in the fridge over night before baking the following day
- Prepare and bake the rolls one or two days before serving. The rolls keep for up to five days, covered, in the fridge.
Can I make the lasagna rolls gluten-free?
Yes you can, and very easily. Simply use your favorite, gluten-free noodle in place of regular lasagna noodles. I like the brown rice lasagna noodles from the Tinkyada brand.
Other comforting pastas
I’ve always loved cozy pasta dishes, but I’ve come to appreciate them more than ever this year. If you love this kind of comfort food as much as I do, a few other options:
- Eggplant baked rigatoni
- Pizza pasta bake
- Creamy skillet lasagna
- Wholesome mushroom kale lasagna
- Creamy carrot mac n’ cheese
- Gluten-free mac n’ cheese with peas
- Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola
For the ricotta filling:
- 3/4 cup (90 g) raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 15 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed between paper towels or flour sack towels to remove excess moisture
- 10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, cooked according to package instructions and firmly pressed in a colander to remove as much moisture as possible
For the rolls:
- 16 lasagna noodles (you may only need 12, but it's better to cook extra in case some break or tear)
- 24 ounces (2 1/2 cups) marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade
Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly oil a large, rectangular (9" x 13" x 2.5") baker.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the lasagna sheets. Cook according to package instructions (probably 10-12 minutes), or until tender.
While the water heats and the lasagna cooks, place the cashews into a food processor fitted with the S blade. Add two tablespoons water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Pulse a few times, then process for about a minute, to break the cashews down. Crumble the tofu into the processor. Continue processing for another 2 minutes, stopping a few times to scrape the sides of the processor down. When the ricotta is completely creamy and smooth, stop the processor. Taste and adjust the salt/pepper/lemon to your liking.
Transfer the ricotta to a mixing bowl and add the chopped spinach. Mix well.
Place about 3/4 cup of the marinara sauce into the prepared baking dish, then spread it evenly around the bottom of the dish.
When the pasta is ready, line a work surface with parchment, foil, or a baking sheet. Spread a cooked lasagna noodle over the surface. Top with 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture and spread the mixture evenly over the noodle. Add a tablespoon of the marinara sauce and cover the top of the ricotta lightly. Starting at the short, bottom end of the noodle, roll the lasagna noodle up. Place the lasagna roll into the baker. Repeat with your remaining noodles, arranging the rolls in your baking dish in rows. When the baking dish is full, top the rolls with remaining marinara sauce, enough to cover them generously.
Cover the baking dish with foil and transfer it to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, covered. Remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce is darkened, concentrated, and bubbling at the edges. Serve!
This year at Thanksgiving, I focused on recipes that were simple to make and designed to serve one or two people.
Theoretically, this isn’t a two-person meal. In fact, it’s a perfect dish for company. But I think it’s still a nice option for this year, because it’s so easy to store/freeze leftovers of the vegan spinach lasagna rolls.
Which means that you can enjoy some on Christmas (or any special occasion), then savor them all over again the next time you want an easy, from-the-freezer dinner.
Enjoy them, friends. Another holiday treat later this week!