Yes, this is vegan. If you've never tried tofu ricotta, now is the time to start. It doesn't sound that exciting, but I'd be willing to bet that this one little ingredient has sold many, many people on a vegan diet.
I have to give credit where credit is due here. I first learned about tofu ricotta from my old college roommate. She was a vegan and although I had given up meat by the time we met, she introduced me to lots of new vegan dishes that I'd never before tried.
Her version of tofu ricotta came in the form of stuffed shells. My contribution to the stuffed shells was homemade marinara sauce, which works great in this dish as well. In any event, vegan stuffed shells were something she raved about for a while before I actually got a chance to try them. I was skeptical, but surprised to see how easily the filling was to prepare. And then I got a taste...
Here's something to think about: traditional ricotta mixture, the kind you'd normally put in stuffed shells or lasagna, like with eggs and mozzarella and all...would you want to eat that stuff raw, outside of the end product, like before cooking or anything? Maybe some of you would, I'm not sure what the general consensus is on that kind of thing, but I wouldn't. I don't find it tasty at all. Bland and mushy is my take. But tofu ricotta...I swear, mix up a batch of this stuff, stick a spoon in the food processor bowl and give it a taste. You will want another. If you don't, recheck the recipe because you probably left something out. This stuff has flavor! That flavor carries over to the end product, be it stuffed shells, lasagna, or any other ricotta filled Italian delight. Some people would say "Oh, tofu ricotta is great! It tastes just like conventional ricotta." I say nay, it tastes way, way better.
This dish is even better yet, because...eggplant! In terms of flavor, I'd take eggplant over pasta any day of the week, but for anyone watching carbs, cutting out gluten or just of the mindset that veggies are superior to pasta, this dish has it made.
I made this as a "skillet lasagna" for a few reasons. (1) Everything tastes better when made in cast iron. It does. (2) Cast iron is just easier, once you get used to it. No scraping off baked on mess. (3) I thought it'd be cute. If you're not into any of that or just don't have cast iron (get some) you can absolutely do this in a baking dish. 9 x 9 should do you up just right.
Vegan Skillet Eggplant Lasagna
Serves about 6
1 large or 2 small eggplants
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion
3 garlic cloves
1 lb. firm or extra firm tofu
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup unflavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk
1/4 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cups marinara sauce
1 cup vegan shredded mozzarella, such as Daiya (optional)
Slice eggplant thinly and salt if needed. Find out here if that is necessary and, if so, how to do it. Preheat oven to 400. Rinse eggplant slices well, pat dry and brush with olive oil. Bake about 10 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and lower heat to 375.
While eggplant is baking, make your ricotta. Start by placing onion and garlic into food processor bowl and processing until finely chopped. Add tofu, lemon, milk, salt, pepper and parsley. Pulse until well blended.
Spray the bottom of your skillet with cooking spray, then coat with 1 cup of marinara. Arrange 1/3 of eggplant slices on top, followed by 1/3 of tofu mixture. Repeat layering patter, finishing with marinara.
Cover skillet with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove foil and top with vegan mozzarella, if using. Bake another 10 minutes or until melted. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before cutting.