Vegan Italian Vegetable Casserole

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As a vegan, you can not eat cheese (obviously). For this dairy-loving girl that part of veganism has been quite a challenge. I love sprinkling some good cheese over a salad or pasta, and having cheese slices with my apple! Mmmmm Mmm!

However, when my boyfriend and I decided to be vegan for lent, as a measure of respect and gratitude towards the environment, we committed to no cheese. What I am learning, is that despite real cheese, there are other ingredient combinations out there that can create the feeling and appearance of cheese, in a healthier and equally delicious way! (whhuuut?! I was shocked too.)

Take this recipe for instance. The fresh zucchini and eggplant slices are stacked in between layers of tomato sauce and a creamy bean, spice, and spinach blend. This creamy sauce, although completely vegan friendly, makes an excellent cheese substitute that adds great nutritional value and flavor. You have to trust me on this, but I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t the truth! Now, get cookin!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly*
  • 28 ounces of prepared pasta sauce
  • 1 15-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 cup spinach, firmly packed
  • Chopped parsley, garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Rinse and peel the eggplants and zucchini to allow for easier cutting and serving later! Slice the eggplants into ¼ – inch thick slices, and slice the zucchini into thin coins.
  3. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until the slices are shriveled, but not brown or crispy.
  4. While the eggplant is cooking rinse the spinach and remove the stems from the leaves.
  5. Combine the beans, basil, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and spinach in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  6. Reduce the heat of the oven to 425˚ F (after the eggplant is done cooking and has been removed).
  7. Spray a medium-sized casserole dish (11 x 7 inch, or a quiche dish) with nonstick spray and spread a thin layer of pasta sauce in the pan.
  8. Arrange a layer of eggplant slices over the sauce, and then spread a layer of the bean filling over the eggplant. Position a layer of zucchini slices over the bean filling. Drizzle lightly with pasta sauce.
  9. Repeat step 8 until all of the vegetables and bean filling have been arranged in the pan. Top the entire casserole with another layer of pasta sauce, spreading to cover the eggplant completely.
  10. Bake the casserole uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables have cooked all the way through and the sauce has thickened.
  11. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!

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Notes and Tips!:

7 thoughts on “Vegan Italian Vegetable Casserole

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