Meatless Monday Gourmet: Vegetable Lasagna

photo credit: Ree Drummond

photo credit: Ree Drummond

While growing up in San Antonio, Texas, my breakfast, lunch and dinner often consisted of tacos and enchiladas. My outlook was that most foods probably originated from the Tex-Mex tradition. Lasagna always seemed to be an Italian interpretation of enchiladas that I delighted in, because it gave me a break from rice and beans (I never really needed a break from rice and beans, but I liked to mix it up a couple times a year). 

I've grown up and expanded my horizons since those good ole days of adolescence, but to me lasagna still represents a special connection to my Tex-Mex roots. In fact, lasagna was probably the first meal (outside of tacos) I ever made by myself at home for my mom and I.

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 ounces, weight lasagna noodles (look for the "oven ready" if available)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 whole red bell pepper, diced into two-inch long sticks
  • 24 ounces, weight cremini mushrooms, sliced lengthwise to see the shape of the mushroom
  • 4 whole squash (yellow or zucchini), diced
  • 1 can (28 ounce) whole tomatoes, with juice (get imported San Marzano Italian, don't go cheap in this ingredient)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (have extra around to adjust taste to your liking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (have extra around to adjust taste to your liking)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 24 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon course salt (sea salt, pink himalayan, or kosher)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound thinly sliced or grated mozzarella cheese
  • have a little extra grated mozzarella cheese for sprinkling on top

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook noodles according to package directions*. Drain and lay flat on a sheet of aluminum foil. *If you have "oven ready lasagna noodles" you can skip this step altogether.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for a minute. Add diced red peppers and sautée for another minute or so. Add squash and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes.

Pour in tomatoes. Use hands/wooden utensil to squeeze/crush the tomatoes. Stir to combine and let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Stir in chopped parsley. 

In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, a little mozzarella cheese, salt, and pepper. 

To assemble, spread a little of the vegetable/tomato sauce in a lasagna pan. Lay down the sheets of noodles in the pan, slightly overlapping them if necessary, to completely fill the baking dish. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on top of the bed of noodles. Top the ricotta mixture with mozzarella slices. Spoon a little less than 1/3 of the veggie/sauce mixture over the mozzarella. 

Repeat the layering two more times, ending with a large helping of vegetable sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan. 

Bake at 350 degrees, covered in foil, for 20 minutes, then remove foil and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

CREDITS Recipe and pictures from The Pioneer Woman with very minor adjustments to my preferences.

Here are a few pictures walking you through the first steps to fill the baking dish just before popping into the oven.