The BEST vegan lasagna with a meaty spicy sausage, mushrooms, and roasted red pepper sauce, layered between tender pasta sheets, and topped with creamy mozzarella cheese. It's sure to be your new favourite lasagna!
We take our lasagna seriously in my family. And this is an old family favourite from way back. Not your classic lasagna, it's more California meets Italy and they become a super couple! This Cal-Ital is loaded with chunks of vegan spicy sausage and portobello mushrooms simmering in a super rich and flavourful sauce that is going to make you drool. Your friends will drool too!
5 Reasons You'll Love this Vegan Lasagna
- It's dairy-free and totally vegan! This lasagna is a real crowd pleaser - it's one of the most requested lasagnas I make. So rich, creamy, and decadent; it's truly one of the best dairy-free lasagnas I've ever eaten.
- Easily oil-free and gluten-free friendly with two swaps - so all eaters can happily dig in.
- It can be made ahead of time and stores/freezes well.
- It's pretty easy to make. I've included some tips and tricks to speed things along.
- The flavour profile is perfection! It's going to knock your socks off.
It's a traditional lasagna in so far as it has layers of noodles, sauce, and cheese but this Cal-Ital version has some unexpectedly delicious twists. I've been making this recipe for every Christmas dinner for the last 20 years. Of course, I've made some changes to the original recipe with no loss of flavour or texture. It's truly the best Italian comfort food elevated.
Lasagna Ingredient Notes
Rich, Roasted Red Pepper Marinara Sauce - you can use your favourite store-bought marinara (I like Rao) or make your own from scratch. I've been making this Rich Red Marinara for decades and almost always have some in the freezer. It's super easy, rich, and flavourful made with only the simplest ingredients.
For my marinara sauce, I always use 6-in-1 ground tomatoes which are extremely flavourful and rich (with added tomato concentrate). Then I add lots of spices, a splash of tangy balsamic vinegar to brighten the sauce, and roasted red peppers for more flavour and texture to this already incredible sauce.
Meaty-Mushroom Filling - chunks of spicy Italian sausage make up the bulk of this delicious filling. But chopped meaty portobellos and onions add layers of texture and flavour.
Creamy, Tangy White Sauce - the original lasagna recipe added goat cheese to the red sauce for tang; but I made an easy swap using a thick, rich, dairy-free cashew cream. I add apple cider vinegar to give it that sour-tanginess, and it works perfectly.
Melty Cheese Top - my favourite vegan mozzarella cheese hands down is Miyokos Mozzarella, but it's tough to find in my city sometimes. Choose your favourite plant-based mozzarella and cut it into squares or shred it to make little piles for each piece (9 - 12).
Pasta (Lasagna Noodles) - I don't use no-boil pasta noodles. To make the perfect pasta for this lasagna, I place them in hot, boiling, salted water for about 5 or 6 minutes so they are pliable but not cooked. (They finish cooking when you bake the lasagna.) Lay the noodles out in a single layer on a cutting board. If you forget and your noodles stick together in the colander before you start layering, just run them under some warm water - problem solved!
Pro Tip: Be sure to check that your pasta does not include eggs. As well, if you have a favourite gluten free pasta, you can sub in for flour pasta - I recommend under cooking from package directions.
How to Make Cal-Ital Lasagna
No one ever believes this lasagna recipe is vegan. It's super hearty and toothsome. And there is no dairy, no meat or tofu, and you won't even notice!
Once all the elements are prepared, it's time to start layering!
In a lasagna pan, add a splash of the red sauce (about ½ -1 cup).
Then add noodles (3-4). If using 3 noodles, they will just touch each other; 4 noodles will slightly overlap.
Add ⅓ of the sausage-mushroom red sauce and a light drizzle of tangy white sauce.
More noodles (3-4), and another ⅓ red sauce.
Spread out spinach leaves (steamed and squeezed dry) or a single layer of fresh baby spinach.
Top with the last of the noodles (3-4), remaining red sauce, a heavy drizzle of tangy white sauce, mozzarella squares or shreds, and vegan parmesan (optional).
Once out of the oven, garnish with chopped basil, parsley, and hot pepper flakes. Enjoy!
Pro Tips and Tricks plus Freezer Friendly
This lasagna can be prepared a day or two in advance. Make the sauces and pasta, but don't layer and bake until the day you are serving it.
Leftovers of this lasagna hold well in the fridge for several days.
As well you can freeze the leftovers. We like to slice and store it in individual containers before freezing for lunches and quick dinners throughout the week.
More Incredible Vegan Lasagna Recipes
Cal-Ital Vegan Lasagna with Sausage
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- 2 red peppers, roasted and peeled
- 2-3 cups mushrooms, chopped
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (to taste)
- 2 tsp dry thyme
- 2 tsp dry oregano
- 2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp hot pepper flakes
- 6-8 Italian or spicy sausage (vegan)*
- 4 cups marinara sauce*
- 1 cup vegetable broth (I use Better than Boullion)
Tangy Cashew White Sauce, Spinach, Noodles
- 1 cup tangy white cashew sauce (recipe below)
- 4 cups spinach leaves, lightly steamed
- 12 lasagna noodles, cooked*
- 12 squares mozzarella cheese (I use Miyokos)
- ¼ cup parsley and basil, chopped
- sprinkle hot pepper flakes
- Preheat the oven to broil. Move oven rack to the top third of the oven (6-8" from top).
- Start the salted pasta water. Cook the pasta noodles according to package directions (less 2 minutes). Drain and set aside.Pro tip: run warm water over the pasta if necessary to unstick just before using.*
ROASTED RED PEPPERS
- Cut red peppers in half and put them cut side down in an oven-proof dish/baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast the peppers for about 15-20 minutes or until the skins are charred and blistering. Checking on them periodically.
- Remove from the oven and place a bowl (upside down) or towel over the peppers so they sweat while they cool.
- Reset oven to 385º F and reset oven racks.
- Once cool, remove the core, seeds, membranes, skin and chop.
- EXPRESS TIP: You can skip roasting the red peppers by buying a jar of roasted red peppers at the market.
- While the red peppers and pasta are cooking: Saute the onions, mushrooms, and garlic in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until brown and caramelized. If oil-free cooking, use a splash of the broth* to prevent sticking.I recommend Better than Bouillon broth.
- Add the oregano, thyme, hot pepper flakes, S&P, and balsamic vinegar. Continue stirring until the vinegar is reduced.
- Add the tomato sauce, bring to a soft boil, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer.
- Stir in the chopped roasted red peppers.
- While the red sauce is simmering: Make the Tangy White Cashew Sauce, stir about 1 cup into the red sauce. Save the rest for layering.
WHITE CREAM SAUCE
- Tangy White Cashew Cream1 cup cashews1 cup boiling water 1 tbsp lemon juice1 tbsp apple cider vinegarpinch of saltPlace everything in the cup of a high speed blender (like a Vitamix) and blend until smooth. If it's too thick, add a tablespoonful or two of water at a time until desired consistency is met - should be medium-thick but not runny.
MEATY SAUSAGE FILLING
- I use Field Roast Sweet Italian Sausage (or Mexican Chipotle sausage.Break into chunks (11-12 chunks per sausage) and add to the sauce.
- Side Note: The Field Roast Sausage cooks in the lasagna so no need to pre-cook. * PS, I don't recommend the Smoked Apple Sage Sausage.
- The Beyond Meat Italian sausage are delicious as well. Choose your favourite sausage and follow the manufacturer's directions for cooking (typically plant-based sausage cooks quickly).
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER (layering)
- Add a splash of red sauce to the bottom of a 9x11 lasagna pan. Top with 4 lasagna noodles slightly overlapping.
- Cover the noodles with ⅓ the meaty red sauce and a light drizzle of tangy white sauce.
- Add another layer of noodles, another ⅓ of the the meaty red sauce.
- Next a layer of slightly steamed spinach (or just arrange a single layer of raw baby spinach).
- Add another layer of noodles, the remaining red sauce and the remaining tangy white sauce.
- Cut 12 squares of your favourite vegan mozzarella (I use Miyokos) and evenly distribute 3 x 4 rows (or 3x3 if you want 9 larger pieces). Cover with tinfoil.
- Cook at 385º F covered for 25-30 minutes, and uncovered for 15 minutes until hot and bubbly. Broil for the last few minutes to get the cheese all melty and golden.
- Remove from oven and let set for ~10 minutes on a baking rack before slicing.
- Slice into 9 or 12 pieces (one square of cheese in the center of each piece). Serve with a sprinkle of fresh, chopped parsley-basil and hot pepper flakes.
Pro Tip: drape each noodle over the side of the pasta pot or colander to keep them from sticking. If stiff or sticking, rinse them with warm water prior to use. Storage - this lasagna holds well in the fridge for a few days and freezes well. We like to freeze them in individual pieces for lunches and dinners. Just remove from freezer, let come to room temperature, and warm in oven or microwave. Make Ahead - you can make the elements of the lasagna a couple days ahead of serving. I recommend to layer and cook it the day you are going to serve it.
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