Friday, May 7, 2010

Very Veggie Lasagne

Today I needed to clean out some items in the fridge, and I decided to make a lasagne, though without a ricotta-like filling I don't know whether it can be called that. Does the noodle make the difference? Anyway, here goes:


--The Filling--
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped (chunky, and the same below)
3-5 cloves garlic, sliced
4 medium zucchini, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
1/4-1/3 cup pesto (I used the jarred russo type from Aldi)
1/4 cup or so white wine (I used the last of a bottle of homemade mead)
a few shakes each Italian herbs and garlic powder, salt to taste

--The Other Stuff--
Large Costco-sized jar of Ragu
1/2-1 cup canned chopped tomatoes (what was leftover in my fridge)
1-1/2 boxes whole wheat lasagne noodles, not cooked (you need about 22 noodles)
1-pound bag shredded Italian cheeses (You're welcome to substitute "cheez" if desired, but my recipe yields about one ounce of cheese per generous serving.)

--The Method--
Heat the olive oil and add first the onions, then the garlic, then the other ingredients in the order listed, according to needed cooking time (you don't want the eggplant a complete mush), with the seasonings last and to taste. Total simmering time should be about a half hour.

In each of two 9x13 glass pans, pour enough Ragu or other sauce to just cover the bottoms, then arrange three DRY noodles lengthwise and break another to fill up the remaining space at the end of each pan. Top the noodles in each pan with a bit more than a quarter of the veggie filling, then sprinkle about three ounces of cheese into each pan.

Add a thin layer of Ragu over the cheese in each pan and top with another layer of noodles, pressing down to even the filling. Distribute the last of the veggie filling over the noodles and add three more ounces of cheese to each pan.

Finally, place another layer of noodles directly onto the last layer of cheese and press down lightly, then add the chopped tomatoes to the Ragu jar and shake it up, distributing the contents over the two pans to moisten the top noodles thoroughly.

Cover each pan with foil, oiled or sprayed with cooking spray if the filling will touch the foil. I baked one and refrigerated one for later.

To bake, put foil-covered pan (at room temperature) into a cold oven and bake at 375 for about ninety minutes. Near the end of baking time, remove the foil and test for softness of the noodles, then sprinkle with remaining two ounces of cheese (for each pan) and bake until melted.

Verdict? Excellent. We didn't miss the ricotta much at all--this was quite satisfying, though improved by a nice crusty roll on the side. :-) My lasagne sometimes fails with hard noodle bits on top, too-dry a result, or slight burning, especially of the top. But this was just right, and cuts up nicely, too, for neat leftovers in microwaved lunches.

Notes: This recipe is definitely a bit skimpy on the cheese, so be advised. The veggies can be water-sauteed, too, especially if you're adding pesto with oil/nuts. One eighth of a pan is a generous serving and includes an ounce of cheese, less than 1-1/2 noodles, half a cup of sauce and tomatoes, half a zucchini, an ounce of mushrooms, 1/16 of a big eggplant, and some onion and garlic as well. I have nothing against ricotta, or a mixture of ricotta and cottage cheese, or even a tofu replacement, but I just didn't have any on hand. The trick to baking lasagne with dry noodles is to make sure they're touching wet ingredients and that the casserole is baked closed for most of its time in the oven.

1 comment:

  1. Cindy,

    I have made lasagna without cooking the noodles for 20 years. Recently I started cooking them halfway before baking to reduce the cooking time. It worked well.

    I am fascinated by the "no ricotta or substitute" idea. I bet this version is nice and light.

    have a good evening,


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