Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vegetable Lasagna

These lasagnas are beautiful the way Jackson Pollack paintings are beautiful.

You're looking at five square inches of delectable chaos.

The original recipe calls for six individual mini-lasagnas baked in ramekins. That sounds adorable and all, but...meh. I just made a regular 9x13 lasagna. Of course, when I sliced into the finished product and saw my lasagna square collapse into a veggie lava on my plate, I began to appreciate the wisdom of the ramekins after all.

Even so, part of me likes the un-neatness of this recipe. Part of me likes the way the carrots, summer squash, asparagus, and white beans escape the confines of the pasta sheets and show their beautiful selves to the world-- like, "We're comin' out, we want the world to know, got to let it show." Like, "We're, too sexy for these noodles, too sexy for these noodles."

This lasagna is as hearty and filling as one expects a lasagna to be, but the vegetables give the dish a light, clean taste. Despite featuring my favorite go-to marinara sauce (see below), the tomato flavor isn't as strong as I would like, so I sprinkled some oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes over the spinach layer for extra zip. Next time I'd probably add even more.

Tomato is to me as cowbell is to Christopher Walken.

Recipe: Vegetable Lasagna

Adapted from Giada De Laurentis' Individual Vegetable Lasagnas



3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium zucchini, finely chopped
1 medium summer squash, finely chopped
8 asparagus spears, cut into 1/4- in. slices
1 pound lasagna sheets
2 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 (10-oz.) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained-- as many as you want
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a saute pan over medium heat, add extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrot and cook for 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and squash; cook for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat when all vegetables are completely cooked but still have a good crunch. Allow to cool.

Boil and drain lasagna noodles according to package directions. Spread some tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9x13 pan.Layer the lasagna sheets, overlapping slightly, over the tomato sauce; I used about five sheets per layer.

Rinse the beans with water and season with salt and pepper. Spread the beans over the noodles. Spread the spinach on top of the beans.  Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes over spinach. Place another layer of pasta over the tomatoes and press down gently. Spread sauteed vegetables over pasta layer. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce over sauteed vegetables. Place third layer of pasta over tomato sauce. Spread second cup of tomato sauce over pasta layer. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Top with butter. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling (it took us a little longer).

Recipe: Go-To Marinara Sauce


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but I find that two tablespoons is plenty. Just depends on how oily you want the finished product to be.)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (If you can't find 32-ounce cans, 28-ounce will do)
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)



In a large casserole pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic. Saute until soft and transluscent, 5-10 minutes. Add celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, 5-10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavors.

I like a chunky sauce, so I stop here. If you want a smooth sauce, add 1/2 the sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags or Tupperware. Keeps in freezer up to 6 months.

Yield: 6 cups

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