Gluten-free, Vegan, No-Mato Instant Pot Lasagna!

I have a mild tomato allergy (I get itchy and rashy, but no anaphylaxis), so I just avoid them, even though it makes me sad. It’s better safe than sorry when dealing with so many allergies and sensitivities. This lasagna has been a long time coming. We’ve also used this sauce for pasta, manicotti, and pizza. It’s not a 1:1 marinara substitute, but for those of us who haven’t had marinara in years, it’s pretty tasty.

a slice of lasagna
Look at those layers!

The Sauce: Tomato-Free (No-Mato) Marinara

Adapted from Unbound Wellness AIP Nomato Recipe.

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup beet powder (I buy Frontier Co-op brand)
  • 1/2 cup chopped non-green bell peppers
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder, or 1-2 fresh cloves
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, or lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste (optional)

Throw all the ingredients into an Instant Pot or any pressure cooker at high pressure for 5 minutes. The natural release method is easiest, but once the cooker is done the veggies are cooked, so feel free to rush it. When cool enough to safely work with the mixture, purée in the pot with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender cup and blend until very smooth.

The Lasagna

We are loving Explore Cuisine’s lentil oven-ready lasagna noodles, but this process works fine for rice-based pasta, too. In an pressure-cooker-sized pan (we love our Instant Pot Springform pan), layer the following:

  • Parchment paper, sprayed with oil
  • Pasta, break up noodles to fit the pan
  • Generous scoop of sauce to cover noodles
  • Cheeze
  • A layer of veggies: spinach, mushrooms, etc
  • Pasta
  • Another scoop of sauce…
  • Cheeze
  • A layer of veggies
  • And so on, until you run out of space or ingredients.
  • Cover the top layer with more sauce, cheese, basil, and oregano (or an Italian seasoning blend).

In the pressure cooker, add a trivet and a cup of water. Set the lasagna on the trivet and cook at high pressure. If using lentil noodles, cook for 20 minutes; if using rice noodles, cook for 40 minutes. Natural release. Take care when removing the lid so as not to pour the condensation on top of your freshly cooked lasagna.

Add more cheeze, then swap the Instant Pot lid with an air fryer lid and brown at 400° for 10 minutes (this step is optional, but crisps the top layer).

Let rest for 15-20 minutes before serving. The lasagna should come right out of the pan if using a Springform pan and/or parchment, and should be stiff enough to be sliced with a large knife.

unbaked lasagna in a pan with parchment covered in raw cheese
Before baking.
baked and browned lasagna in a round pan
After browning with the air fryer.
an entire cooked lasagna, out of the pan
Homemade, gluten-free, vegan, tomato-free lasagna. Look at those layers!

Some Notes and Suggestions

Does this REALLY taste like tomato? No. But it’s darn close. It’s tangy, sweet, salty, and tastes like delicious Italian herbs and spices. If you can eat onions, you should add a half an onion to the veggies (use the saute setting to cook the onions before adding all the other veggies), which will definitely add a more authentic marinara taste. Tamarind paste and balsamic vinegar both add some deep color to the mixture. These photos were from a batch without tamarind or balsamic, and while the sauce was tasty, it was more of a red-orange or beet color, especially fresh out of the blender (full of air!). If the flavor seems like it’s lacking, try adding salt. If you’re like me and mostly remember the flavor of store-bought sauces and condiments, the secret is usually extra salt.

Double or Triple the Sauce Recipe: This recipe makes 3-4 cups of sauce. It’s enough for one lasagna in a 6-qt Instant Pot with a little leftover for topping the lasagna when serving. I’ve doubled and tripled this recipe, setting some aside in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freezing for future use. (It’s never been in the freezer for more than a week around here, so I can’t speak for freezer life.)

No-mato Paste and BBQ Sauce: By doubling the beet powder, this will make a much thicker sauce. If you end up with a thicker sauce unintentionally, just thin it out with a little splash of water. But thicker sauces have awesome uses: freeze portions in ice cube trays to save for future recipes calling for tomato paste (awesome for chili!), or use as a base for a no-mato BBQ sauce by adding a sweetener and vinegar.

Cheese: We really like the vegan mozzarella from Violife or Miyoko’s paired with parmesean from Violife or Follow Your Heart. Alternately, no cheese is needed, or sub a white sauce or dairy cheese (if you eat dairy).

White Lasagna: The whole point of this experiment was to create a no-mato sauce to satisfy a long-time lasagna craving. Since proving that GF no-bake lasagna noodles can be cooked in the Instant Pot, we’ve also tried this with a cashew-based white sauce (2 cups plain unroasted/raw cashews, 2 cups water, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, and salt and lemon juice to taste), and it’s delicious. If you can eat soy, this would be great with a tofu-based white sauce, too.

Pasta Bake: GF lasagna noodles can be tough to find, especially if you can’t eat rice or corn. If you like legume pastas, this sauce and ingredient combo works great for a weeknight pasta bake. Mix everything into the same sized pan (don’t even bother cooking the pasta), and cook at high pressure for 25 minutes. Cover with cheese and brown with an air fryer lid. Or don’t! We’re not the boss of you.

Skip the Pasta: While we haven’t tested this version in a pressure cooker, we’ve made many lasagnas over the years using thinly sliced zucchini or summer squash. If you choose to give this a try, please let us know! I think the cook time should be limited to 1 minute at high pressure and keep the air frying time the same.

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