When I was younger, I came to a rather stark realization about lasagna. [Editor’s Note: What the author means is any lasagna that wasn’t her mom’s vegetable lasagna.] I was at a friend’s house and was invited to stay for dinner. Of course I said yes, and when dinner was served, I was over the moon. It was lasagna with a side of garlic bread. I dug in happily—and then, a flash of panic washed over me. There was something unusual in the lasagna: meat. For years, I believed that “lasagna” meant noodles, ricotta cheese, and some form of pasta sauce, and that it was vegetarian by definition. It wasn’t that my family was vegetarian: we simply never had meat in our pasta sauce.
To this day, I’m still a steadfast lover of vegetable lasagna. This dish is one of those “perfect for all occasions” recipes. I’ve made it when we’re having company over; on days when I want a solid week of leftovers to put in my husband’s packed lunch; and for my pregnant friends as a freezer meal for future use. (It’s a great gift!) I keep the layers fairly simple, and I try not to overdo it on the cheese. Lasagna is all about striking a balance between sauce, noodles, and filling.
When time permits I like to make lasagna from scratch—noodles, sauce, and all. Of course, that’s not always doable, and that’s when store-bought noodles and sauces come in handy.–Erin Alderson
LC Vegetable Lasagna For All Seasons Note
Easily bored? Can’t imagine making the same exact vegetable lasagna all year long? We understand. So does this crazily versatile vegetable lasagna recipe, which switches ingredients depending on what’s in seasonal abundance at any given point in the year. (Go on. Take a gander at the variations beneath the recipe.) And while we quite like the recipe and its variations as is, you can’t really go wrong when you instead simply roast whatever is in your CSA box, use it as the filling, and call it dinner.
For the filling
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 to 5 cups cubed assorted vegetables (see suggested variations beneath the recipe)
For the ricotta
- One (14.5-oz) container whole-milk ricotta
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For the assembly
- 3 cups simple tomato sauce or béchamel sauce (recipe follows)
- 1 box lasagna noodles or 1 batch homemade lasagna noodles
- 6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
Make the filling
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C).
- Toss together the olive oil, diced onion, and veggies in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Roast until tender, which ought to take 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the type and size of your vegetables.
Make the ricotta
- Whisk together the ricotta, egg white, oregano, and salt.
Assemble the lasagna
- Bring a pot of water to a boil so you can boil the lasagna noodles in batches as you assemble the lasagna. Meanwhile, spoon 1/2 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-9-inch pan. Boil 3 pasta noodles for 30 seconds and layer them on the sauce in the pan. Smear half the ricotta cheese mixture on the noodles, sprinkle with half the veggies, and top with roughly 1/3 the shredded cheese.
- Repeat the process again with 1/2 cup tomato sauce, noodles that you just boiled for 30 seconds, the second half of the ricotta mixture, the second half of the vegetable mixture, and another 1/3 of the cheese. To finish, spread another 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, boil the remaining 3 noodles, and layer them on top, then cover with more tomato sauce and the remaining cheese. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and the tomato sauce is bubbling.
- Let the lasagna rest at room temperature for at least a few minutes prior to slicing and serving.
Vegetable Lasagna VariationsBéchamel Vegetable Lasagna To make the optional béchamel sauce to use in place of the tomato sauce, melt 1 tablespoon (1 ounce) butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 1 small minced shallot and cook until fragrant and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons (24 grams) all-purpose flour and cook, whisking or stirring constantly, for another minute. Slowly stir in 2 cups (480 milliliters) milk and heat until the béchamel has thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, add 4 ounces (112 grams) shredded mozzarella cheese, and stir until melted. Use the béchamel as you would the tomato sauce, sprinkling 2 ounces (56 grams) shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the lasagna. Spring Vegetable Lasagna Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in 3 cups (120 grams) spinach, and gently toss to wilt the spinach a little. Make the Vegetable Lasagna recipe as directed, using the béchamel sauce instead of the tomato sauce and the fennel and spinach mixture as the filling. Summer Vegetable Lasagna Preheat the grill to medium-low heat. Trim the ends from 2 medium zucchini (12 ounces or 340 grams). Cut each zucchini in half horizontally and then take each half and slice it into 1/4-inch-thick (6-millimeter-thick) planks. Grill the zucchini planks until lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the zucchini from the grill and cut into small pieces. Make the Vegetable Lasagna recipe as directed, using the tomato sauce and the grilled zucchini as the filling. Fall Vegetable Lasagna Preheat the oven to 425˚F (220˚C). Toss 3 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash and 1 medium apple, peeled and chopped, with 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) olive oil and spread them in a single layer in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes and remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 400˚F (200˚C) and make the Vegetable Lasagna recipe as directed, substituting the squash and apple for the filling and using the béchamel sauce in place of the tomato sauce. Winter Vegetable Lasagna Peel and chop 1 large sweet potato. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the sweet potato, and cook until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and purée with 1 cup (235 milliliters) milk. Make the Vegetable Lasagna recipe as directed, using the sweet potato and milk purée in place of the milk in the béchamel sauce and omitting the other vegetables.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a great recipe! And it is beautiful. I love the variations and plan on trying them all at some point. The first time I made this recipe, I chopped 2 cups broccoli, 2 cups green and yellow zucchini, and 1 cup carrots. The roasting time in the recipe worked well, and all the veggies were cooked but not overdone. I really wanted to make a white lasagna so I used the béchamel recipe. I will probably use that for every variation of this lasagna that I make in the future. It has a delicious flavor and looks beautiful. It cooks up a little thick, so I whisked in about 1/2 cup milk to the finished sauce to thin it slightly. There is just enough béchamel for a great balance of noodle to ricotta to vegetables to sauce. While I didn’t make my own noodles, I did follow the recipe instructions for cooking the noodles in batches of 3 rather than all at once. This actually made assembling the lasagna much simpler than cooking all the noodles together as I didn’t have to carefully peel each cooked noodle off of another and risk ripping them. I cooked each batch for 7 minutes so the noodles were just about al dente, and this was perfect, as the baked lasagna yielded an al dente noodle that was not lost in the midst of too much sauce or soggy vegetables. Each part of the lasagna was distinct but unified in a great dish. Next time I might use 4 noodles per layer, as the purchased noodles weren’t wide enough to cover the bottom of the dish with just the 3 noodles. This version of the recipe took me 2 hours from start to finish with 1 1/4 hours hands-on time.
I love a vegetable lasagna, probably more than a meaty lasagna, most any time. I made this as weeknight-friendly as possible, using a prepared marinara with no sugar added and no-boil lasagna sheets, which I know from experience work well in my square baking dish. The egg white and ricotta mixture takes only seconds yet becomes fluffy and light—it almost feels like a cheat, it’s so simple. I like that there wasn’t too much cheese or oil in the lasagna and that the flavors were so clean and well-blended. Right now our markets have beautiful zucchini, so I chose a variety of summer squash (crookneck and dark green zucchini) and paired them with mushrooms. Roasting the mushrooms reduced them to an intense flavor and took most of their wateriness away, though since the vegetables were all mixed together for roasting, I stopped roasting while the squash were still quite moist, which was about 30 minutes. That meant my finished lasagna was a little wetter that I might have liked but still delicious. I used a firm, fresh mozzarella, so my version may have been a little moister because of that choice as well, but the delicate flavor was perfect. I couldn’t help adding a wisp of freshly grated Parmesan at the very end to dress the lasagna up for serving. I had fresh marjoram growing, so I used that in place of oregano along with a bit of fresh thyme. This recipe would also be perfect with a totally untraditional asparagus, lemon, and chèvre combo. An easy weeknight recipe or, when tomato season comes, a weekend project with homemade sauce. The recipe is worth doubling to set an extra lasagna aside in the freezer for later. Most of all, this recipe passed my secret test: it was absolutely beautiful and delicious for breakfast the next morning straight out of the fridge. (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but it might tie with pizza or spanakopita for breakfast!) Even though I took weeknight shortcuts—store-bought noodles, prepared tomato sauce—the recipe still took 2 hours from beginning to serving.
Good recipe. I used store-bought fresh pasta sheets and béchamel sauce. I didn’t have to boil the fresh pasta sheets. I made the fennel and spinach variation and also added kale. The baking time was 45 minutes. The flavor was excellent. The only thing I would like to do differently is make the béchamel using half fontina and half Parmesan cheese instead of mozzarella and place the mozzarella on top of the fennel, spinach, and kale.
Originally published September 14, 2015