Saturday, April 18, 2009

Veggie Lasagna!

Vegetable Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes. I first had it at a Raleigh Hills restaurant called Ernesto's, a homey red-sauce Italian kind of place. It contained mushrooms, zucchini and spinach and was smothered with hot, melty cheese. I used that as my model when first creating my own veggie lasagna.

I've been eating fewer carbs, so for this batch, I used horizontally-cut zucchini strips in place of the noodles on my half. Brian doesn't believe in noodle-less lasagna, so I used the no-boil noodles on his part. Aren't I nice?

Sauce - I make my own marinara sauce. Saute onions in olive oil and butter, add red pepper flakes, canned tomatoes (San Marzano if possible), thyme, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and let simmer on lowest setting for a few hours. Sometimes I stir in some tomato paste if I want it a little thicker for lasagna. This batch I stirred in some fresh basil as well, but dried is just as good. I often make the sauce the day before and let it sit overnight. Cold sauce is easier to work with, plus the flavor has time to develop.

Veggies - I use frozen spinach, zucchini and mushrooms. I pre-cook the mushrooms so they don't leak water throughout my lasagna. Zucchini gets cut the long way for this batch. The spinach I thaw and drain and squeeze as much water out of it as I can. This takes many, many tree-killing paper towels.

Cheese - Ricotta and parmesan play a key role here. I mix the ricotta with 2 eggs and about 4 cups of shredded parmesan cheese. Next time I might mix the spinach in there, too and see how that turns out. Mozzarella cheese is shredded and goes mostly on top. Sometimes I might throw a little cheddar in there for kicks. I think fontina would be good, too, for its exceptional melting quality.

Layering - I never get as many layers as I should, probably because I don't have a deep enough pan. Three layers are just about average for me. First, spread a cupful of sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Add noodles or zucchini strips, covering the whole bottom.

Then, spread ricotta mixture thinly over the noodles/zucchini. Sprinkle with mushrooms, spinach and a little mozzarella cheese.

Repeat as your pan allows. For the top layer, I just use the ricotta mixture, sauce and cover it with cheese. Use your hands to smoosh it down a little.

Cover with foil and bake about an hour and a half. Check it to see if the middle is completely cooked. Sometimes I have to throw it back in for another 1/2 hour. When it's done, remove the foil and bake about 10 minutes more to get the cheese brown and melty.

Let cool and eat!

I often make this on Sunday afternoons as it makes great work lunches for the week. We never get sick of lasagna!


michelle said...

Okay, next time I make lasagna (when it's cold out again (this weekend?), I am so using zucchini for the noodles. Such a great idea! :)

Kalyn said...

I have a recipe on my blog for a similar type of lasagna using the zucchini instead of lasagna noodles, but I love the idea of adding spinach!

valletta said...

Here's a tip for squeezing the moisture out of the spinach (instead of paper towels):
Use a potato ricer! It works beautifully.