Thanks to Jessica Murnane, I now believe in the power of cashew cream.
But let me back up a second. I hadn’t heard of Jessica Murnane and her One Part Plant movement until she very kindly shared a Modern Potluck recipe on her blog and Instagram feed. As soon as I checked out her site, I knew she was a budding star. And now she has a new cookbook!
In a world in which plant-based (aka, mostly vegan) eating often feels elitist and precious, Jessica’s approach is fun, welcoming, and positive. Up until a few years ago, she didn’t know how to cook and basically subsisted on junk food and frozen dinners. When faced with the possibility of getting a hysterectomy because of her endometriosis, she learned that a plant-based diet might help manage the symptoms. Her diet overhaul worked, and now she’s trying to encourage others to eat more plants.
One of the things I appreciate about Jessica’s work is that she does not spread pseudoscience. She shares when studies support her style of eating and when they are inconclusive. Essentially, she acknowledges she eats this way because it makes feel better. She thinks it might make others feel good, too.
Now back to that cashew cream. I recently launched a project called Potluck Nation, in which I’m hoping to inspire people to use potlucks as a force for good. I’ve noticed many communities host vegan potlucks, so I thought I’d share Jessica’s lasagna, a crowd-pleasing dish to take to a party.
While her lasagna doesn’t have a stretchy cheesy factor, it is creamy like lasagnas made with béchamel (a milky white sauce). The secret to its satisfying richness is an easy-to-make cashew cream. Jessica then boosts the veggie quotient of the dish by adding mushrooms and greens in addition to a tomato sauce.
Clearly, this is a meat-free lasagna, but if you’re potlucking with carnivores, just don’t mention the ‘v’ word, and I promise they’ll love it.
- Olive, grape seed, coconut oil, or veggie broth, for sautéing
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- 16 ounces mushrooms, chopped (you can use a mix of different mushrooms)
- 1 tablespoon tamarin or coconut amigos
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours and drained
- 1 cup veggie broth
- Sea salt
- 10 ounces gluten-free lasagna noodles
- 4 cups marinara sauce (a 32-ounce jar)
- Nutritional yeast (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a large skillet, heat a glug of oil or veggie broth over medium. When the pan is hot, add the garlic and sauté until it becomes fragrant. This will take about a minute. Add the mushrooms, tamari, and thyme. Cook, stirring every minute or so, for 6 to 8 minutes or until the mushrooms release their water and a little broth starts to form.
- Combine the cashews and veggie broth in a high-speed blender and blend until the mixture is completely smooth. This might take up to 5 minutes, depending on the speed and power of your blender. Pour the cashew sauce into the pan with the mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for a couple minutes to let the sauce thicken, stirring frequently. Throw in the spinach and stir for another minute. Season with salt if desired.
- Prepare the lasagna noodles according to the package instructions. Make sure to do this after your mushroom sauce is ready to go, so the noodles don’t sit for too long and start sticking together. Spread a third of the marinara sauce on the bottom of an 8-by-11-inch baking dish or a large enameled cast-iron skillet. Add a layer of noodles. Cover the noodles with half of the mushroom cream. (Add a little water to the cream sauce if it starts to get too thick.) Add a layer of noodles. Use another third of the marinara to cover these noodles. Spread the remaining mushroom cream on top. Add the last layer of noodles and cover it with the remaining marinara sauce.
- Cover the lasagna with parchment followed by aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast over the top, if you like, and bake for another 15 minutes. Let the lasagna rest for 5 minutes before serving.