Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Set out a large baking dish (9x13 inch or similar size) and lightly grease.
Begin by preparing sauce. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, garlic, red pepper flake (optional), beef, and salt and begin sautéing, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, or until meat is browned. Use spoon to break meat into small pieces.
In the meantime, if using noodles that require boiling, bring a large pot of water to a boil (if using no-boil noodles, skip this step). Once boiling, add a healthy pinch of salt and your lasagna noodles (or other pasta shape). Cook according to package instructions to achieve an al dente texture — tender with a little bite. Then drain and set aside. Optional: Drizzle pasta with a little oil to prevent sticking.
To the pot, add your marinara sauce and stir to combine. Cook on low for about 10 minutes to marry the flavors. Then taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding salt to taste or red pepper flake for heat. You could also add dried Italian spices and/or sweetener of choice to balance the flavors at this time (optional). Turn off heat and set aside.
Next, make your "cheese." Add macadamia nuts (or sub soaked cashews) to a food processor or a high-speed blender along with lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and sea salt and mix/blend into a loose paste.
Add lesser amount of water (2/3 cup or 120 ml as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). Continue mixing, scraping down sides as needed. Then add more water — 1 Tbsp (15 ml) at a time — until a thick paste forms. I find I get the best texture results with a food processor, but a blender can work, too. It just generally requires more scraping and more liquid. For texture, you’re looking for a spreadable soft “cheese.”
Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor, salt for saltiness, lemon juice for acidity/brightness, or garlic powder for garlic flavor. Blend again to combine.
To begin assembly, add a thin layer of marinara sauce to your baking dish. Spread to ensure even distribution. Then add a layer of the cooked pasta noodles (or uncooked noodles if using no-boil). Top with a thin layer (roughly 1/3 of the mixture) of your nut cheese and spread into an even layer.
Add another thin layer of marinara sauce and use a spoon to spread over the cheese layer to coat. Then add another layer of noodles. Top with another 1/3 of the cheese and spread into an even layer.
Add another layer of marinara sauce and spread into an even layer. Then top with another layer of noodles and remaining 1/3 of the cheese, and spread into an even layer. Top with another layer of marinara sauce and spread into an even layer.
Top with another layer of noodles and, finally, remaining sauce. Optional: Top with a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese.
Cook on the middle rack of your preheated oven for 40-45 minutes uncovered, or until the sauce is bubbly and/or the edges are browned.
Carefully remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Then slice, serve, and enjoy. We recommend garnishing with additional vegan parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil or parsley. See notes for freezing instructions.*
*To make this recipe freezer friendly, prepare sauce, cheese, and noodles and layer as instructed. Once assembled, cover well and freeze up to 1 month. To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C), cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes (if thawed) or up to 45 minutes - 1 hour (if frozen). Then remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and hot. *Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with Capello’s lasagna noodles and without optional ingredients.