The U.S. Open star serves this dish at his plant-based restaurant in Monte Carlo
Who Tried It: Catherine Kast, PEOPLE Editor
As a child growing up in Serbia, Djokovic, 29, suffered from allergies, poor sleep and other issues. “I had trouble with respiration especially in difficult conditions on the court,” he told reporters over dinner celebrating his video series Made By Moments with Jacob’s Creek Wines in New York City.
In 2010, the athlete eliminated refined sugar, dairy, and gluten from his diet. And last year, he stopped eating meat entirely. “I took [it] to another level and I feel better than I ever did before,” he said. “I’m excited to be—at this level—a vegan athlete.”
One dish served at the meal was the tennis star’s zucchini lasagna with three different sauces, one of Djokovic’s favorites. I loved it so much that I decided to try it for my tennis-obsessed (but not health-obsessed) husband. He was delighted that I was going to serve him something Djokovic himself might have before a match, but his face fell when he found out it was vegan, assuming the worst. I told him he couldn’t get out of eating it, but prepped some boiling water to make additional pasta to serve just in case he didn’t love the meal.
He ended up cleaning his plate! Because there is protein in the nuts and lots of fiber in the veggies, it’s filling, but it’s the fresh flavors of the three different sauces that make each bite totally satisfying.
Almost everything in the recipe is readily available at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. The one specialty ingredient included in the recipe is nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast often grown on molasses that is high in protein, fiber and B-12 vitamins. It’s not too hard to find and it’s not expensive: I got my Bragg’s nutritional yeast for just $4.95 at Thrive Market, and it will last you for months. It adds a cheesy, umami flavor to the cashew ricotta, and though you can skip it, I believe that the dish wouldn’t have the satisfying taste it does without it.
I used my mini food processor for this and it fit the ingredients perfectly— I just rinsed it out in between sauces. And if you don’t have a mandoline, don’t worry: A vegetable peeler works fine.
You can try the lasagna and other Djokovic-inspired dishes and wine pairings at Jacob’s Creek’s pop-up at the Refinery Hotel restaurant Parker & Quinn in N.Y.C. from Aug. 29- Sept 2 — or, you can make it yourself!
Novak Djokovic’s Vegan Lasagna
For the lasagna:
1 zucchini, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
Arugula, oregano, raw cashews and red pepper flakes for garnish
For the sauces:
1 cup of cashews, soaked in filtered water overnight
¼ cup of water
1 tbsp. of nutritional yeast
½ tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tbsp. salt
• Combine all ingredients in food processor until mixture reaches the texture of creamy ricotta. Set aside.
¾ cup of packed basil leaves
¼ cup of packed baby spinach leaves
¼ cup pistachios
3 tbsp. of olive oil
½ tbsp. salt
½ tbsp. lemon juice
A pinch of pepper
• Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined. Set aside.
Red Pepper Marinara
¼ cup of sun dried tomatoes, soaked one hour and then squeezed of water
1 tomato, seeded and roughly chopped
½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
½ shallot, chopped
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp of olive oil
¼ tbsp of salt
2 pinches of red chili flakes
• Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined. Set aside.
Build the lasagna, starting with the cashew ricotta in the center of a plate. Place 3-4 slices of zucchini on top, so they’re slightly overlapping lengthwise (make the layer as thick as desired). Spread some pistachio pesto over the zucchini. Layer tomatoes on top of the pesto, and more zucchini on top of that. Spread a generous amount of the red pepper marinara on top. Garnish with fresh arugula, oregano, raw cashews, chili flakes and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.