Everybody needs a good lasagna recipe. It’s such a staple of American cooking, even though we like to think of it as Italian. Growing up, most of us had a mom (or a friend’s mom) who made the best lasagna we’d ever tasted in our short lives, and you’d be hard pressed to find many people who would turn it down if offered some. It’s a great meal for a big family, since one lasagna feeds about 1,400 people, and it’s right up there with potato salad and those little meatballs as a champion of potluck dinners across America. Lasagna is great.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the ways Rachel and I are trying to live more simply is to eat less meat in our diets. We’re always looking for meals that include meat but could do just as well without it so we can make the substitution. lasagna happens to be one of those meals, so we decided to opt out of the traditional ground beef approach and go for some hearty vegetables instead. After some thoughtful debate we landed on mushrooms and baby spinach as the candidates, since both are very distinct and flavorful and combine well with the rest of the flavors. Feel free to try out your own versions though; the sky’s the limit. Once we even substituted thinly-sliced zucchini for the noodles, and it was surprisingly good. Be creative.
Veggie Lasagna Recipe
lasagna noodles (1/2 box or so)
30 oz ricotta
1 tsp salt
t tsp pepper
2 tsp basil
2 tsp parsley
6-8 oz mushrooms, sliced
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella
3 cups sauce
1 onion, sliced (to caramelize for topping)
Pre-cook your mushrooms (or whatever other vegetable you choose for your version). We did not sautee the spinach at all beforehand, however, since it tends to get mushy and shrink when cooked. This turned out to be a good choice; just chop it and throw it in there. Something heartier like chard or kale or even full-grown spinach might need a little heat before lasagna time.
Cook your noodles according to the package, or even better– make your own. We didn’t this time, but probably will in the future.
To caramelize the onion, slice it thinly and sautee gently for about 30 minutes, adding a splash of water every once in awhile until the onions are small, soft, and brown.
Mix the ricotta, egg, salt/pepper/herbs, then the vegetables.
Spread the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish with a thin layer of sauce. Lay some noodles down, overlapping slightly to cover the bottom completely.
Over that, do a nice, thick layer of sauce again, followed by the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top. Alternatively, you could leave the vegetables out of the ricotta and let them be their own separate layer.
Continue by doing the same layers again (noodles, sauce, cheese) at least once or until you run out of stuff.
Top with a layer of noodles, a little sauce, some mozzarella, and the caramelized onions.
Bake at 350°-375°F for 20-40 minutes, covered with aluminum foil. Then, remove the foil and continue baking until the top is browned and bubbly.
After removing from the oven, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, or else everything will fall apart when you cut it from the pan.
That’s it! This is a meal in itself, but a nice salad or some crusty bread would be a nice accompaniment.
What do you think? How are you going to make your version?
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