Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna Even Guys Enjoy

“Vegetable Lasagna” is like false advertising…or so some of my friends told me.  Delicious lasagna, by definition they say, must include greasy sausage or ground beef.  But when Italian sausage is $5 a pound, meat isn’t making the menu.   
**For all those already mourning the loss of flavor, I promise that it returns by the time you take your first bite. **
Meat consistently makes a dish tasty.  To make up for lost meat, I had to be elitist with my vegetable recruits.  I carefully chose the finest, firmest zucchini; went for the $2 splurge on brown Cremini mushrooms; got my money’s worth on frozen spinach and canned olives; and took on my trusted pantry standbys, onion and garlic. Other recipes might recommend red pepper, broccoli, or tomatoes, which are all excellent additions.  But alas, they are additions.  If you are looking to maximize the quality of your lasagna and not the quantity of your bill, this recipe is what you need.  Also, this recipe has the added health benefit of less cheese – notice that you don’t even need mozzarella!
The plate was a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors.  This meatless lasagna retained all the hearty taste, without leaving you bulging at the belt.  Even the carnivorous skeptics at the table were silent, mouths full of delight.  It was the type of dinner where you heard only the scraping of utensils.  It was the type of night where you redefine “delicious lasagna”.  

Vegetable Lasagna
½ box of lasagna noodles
2 T olive oil
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup sliced black olives (from the can)
1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed  
Salt and Pepper
1 can pasta/marinara sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
Pinch of nutmeg
Parmesan cheese

1.       Preheat oven to 350˚.
2.       Prepare the vegetables; meanwhile heat pasta sauce in small pot over medium. 
3.       In a large pot, boil water for the pasta.
4.       In large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat.
5.       Add onions, mushrooms, zucchini – cook for about 3-5 min, then add garlic and cook for until vegetables are fork tender (less than 5 min).
6.       Reduce heat to medium.  Add olives and spinach, toss until warm.
7.       Meanwhile, mix together ricotta cheese, egg, and nutmeg.
8.       Season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper until achieve desired taste.
9.       In a deep dish – at least 4 in (i.e. Corning Ware) – layer lasagna noodles, vegetables, pasta sauce, and ricotta cheese mixture.  Repeat as needed.  Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese.
10.   Bake for about 45 min.  Consume!

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