Friday, 14 July 2017

Vegetarian Lasagna

I never thought I would love a vegetarian Lasagna but this recipe definitely knocks it out of the park! My family are a bunch of meatatarians so they were definitely skeptical but this was a crowd pleaser. I found the recipe on the Cooking Channel show Extra Virgin. The vegetables include spinach and zucchini. There are layers of red tomato sauce, bechamel sauce, fresh mozzarella and of course noodles and the vegetables. It is light and fresh but the bechamel sauce and mozzarella give it a richness that is irresistible. I have made this lasagna and kept it refrigerated and cooked it the next day and it was great. Just remember the cooking time will be longer because the lasagna is chilled.

Vegetarian Lasagna

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus for serving
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 pounds baby spinach
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 small zucchini, diced
Bechamel Sauce, recipe follows
One 9-ounce box flat, no-boil lasagna noodles
Two 8-ounce balls fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Red sauce, recipe follows
2 tablespoons butter, sliced into thin pats, plus for greasing the baking dish

Bechamel Sauce:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 generous pinches kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper 

Red Sauce:

One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 red onion, cut into medium dice
3 cloves garlic, cut into chunks
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh basil leaves, torn 


Red Sauce:

Puree the tomatoes until smooth in a food processor.
Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and saute just until soft, but before they actually start to brown. Add the garlic. If you'd like to make the sauce spicier, add the pinch of red pepper. Add the pureed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
Simmer over a medium-low flame for about 30 minutes. (Strive for balance in the consistency of the sauce: it should be fluid, but shouldn't look overly wet.) A few minutes before taking the sauce off the fire, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper.


Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the red pepper flakes and saute for 20 seconds. Add the spinach in batches and toss in the hot oil until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and saute until tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a fine-mesh sieve to drain as it cools. When cool, place in a clean tea towel and squeeze out excess water. Roughly chop and reserve in a bowl.


Wipe out the skillet (or use a second large skillet), add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and set over a medium-high flame. When hot, add the zucchini and cook until tender and golden, about 12 minutes. Remove to a bowl and reserve.

Bechamel Sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the flour is lightly toasted. (This is an important step, as you have to slowly toast the flour without burning it. This will help you lose the floury taste.)
In a second saucepan, warm up the milk and gradually ladle it into the butter-flour mixture. Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk; if too runny, return to the heat and whisk in a pat of butter mixed with an equal amount of flour. The most important thing is this: bechamel sauce should not taste floury. If you think your sauce is ready but can taste a hint of "flouriness," then think again and keep on cooking for a few minutes more.

Assembling the Lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter a 9-by-13-by-4-inch baking dish and add a thin layer of bechamel sauce

Cover with a layer of noodles (4 across) and then another thin layer of bechamel sauce . Sprinkle some spinach and zucchini over the bechamel sauce, and then top with one-quarter of the mozzarella, a sprinkling of the Parmesan and a ladle full of red sauce. Repeat this sequence twice to form two more layers. Top with a final layer of noodles and spread a final layer of bechamel sauce, red sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, and a few pats of butter to help the cheese crisp-up in the oven.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F, uncover, and bake until the cheese just begins to brown and the sauce bubbles, another 10 to 15 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan and a drop of extra-virgin olive oil.
Print Recipe:Vegetarian Lasagna

Puree tomatoes in food processor until smooth.

Saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat, cook until soft. Add garlic and red pepper chili flakes.

Add the tomatoes to the onions.

Simmer for about 30 minutes so the sauce is reduced and not so runny. Stir in basil and salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Heat olive oil. Add garlic and pepper flakes.

Add spinach in batches and stir until wilted a little and keep adding the spinach.

Sprinkle spinach with salt and pepper. This process will take about 6 minutes or so. Once all the spinach is wilted remove from heat.

Transfer spinach to a fine mesh sieve to drain as it cools.

When cool place the spinach in a clean tea towel and squeeze out liquid.

Chop spinach.

Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and cook zucchini over medium heat until tender and golden.

Bechamel sauce: Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat.

Add flour and cook until flour is lightly toasted. See instructions.

Warm the milk in microwave but do not bring it to the boiling point.

Gradually add milk to the flour mixture. add salt and pepper.

Add nutmeg. This is fresh nutmeg I am grating into the sauce.

These are the no-boil flat noodles I used. They are from the Italian grocery store. They are made in Italy and are much better than the noodles made here in the North America.

Butter a 9x13 inch deep lasagna pan.( 4 inch deep)

Add a thin layer of the Bechamel sauce.

Top with the noodles.

Cover with Bechamel sauce.

Sprinkle with some spinach and zucchini.

Break some of the fresh mozzerella into pieces.

Top with the mozzarella

Add a sprinkling of the Parmesan cheese.

Ladle some of the red sauce over the cheese.

Top with more noodles.

Break the noodle in half to fill in the open spaces or just overlap the whole noodles.

Add more of the Bechamel sauce.

Continue this process.

Here I overlapped the noodles.

Bechamel sauce.

Add a few pats of butter to the final top layer. cover with foil. Bake 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and remove foil. Bake until cheese is bubbling and golden about 15 minutes.

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