Thursday, February 17, 2011

Veggie Lasagna

I have to admit, this is actually the first time I've made lasagna... I've made lasagna roll-ups, but not an actual lasagna. I've always thought that they were too time consuming and too much hassle. Maybe it is also because I use to not be such a huge fan of tomatoes (and all lasagna's I'd had were made with tomatoes, not true with this one). True story, I HATED tomatoes. Growing up whenever we ate fast food and I had a tomato on my sandwich there were always at least 2 offers from family members to take it. It always went to the person who called dibs first...  All that changed when I got pregnant in the fall of 2007 (unfortunately the pregnancy was short-lived to 11 weeks.) I craved food - mainly tomatoes and orange juice with an occasional craving for steak. I was astounded - me the tomato hater actually CRAVING tomatoes. It's a crazy world, I think someone was playing with my head back then ;). Ever since I actually like tomatoes, well mostly... I don't eat them plain. I also don't eat tomato sandwiches like my mom.

However, if you don't like tomatoes, this is a perfect lasagna for you - not a tomato in the whole thing! No meat either which wasn't such a happy finding out for my dad. Although, if someone in your family doesn't think a meal is complete without some sort of meat, you could throw in some ham - either chunks spread out over the cottage cheese mixture or deli ham layered over the noodles. My husband and I actually enjoyed it without the addition of meat and I will be making this again in the future pretty much as is.  One suggestion - I would suggest making sure to have your Mise en place for this dish! There really is a bit of stuff to do (I missed shredding the carrots and cheese until I was at that step, which isn't a huge deal it is just a little annoying to have to take the time to do it when you're in the middle of making the dish.)

 Veggie Lasagna
 First, you'll want to cook your lasagna noodles (cook according to package directions). I had to cook mine in two batches because I don't have a pan big enough to make enough large noodles. I'd suggest cooking 10-12 noodles - you may not use them all, but I cooked 9 and didn't have quite enough for the top layer.
 While the pasta is cooking, we'll get the next two layers ready... First, saute about 1 pound of mushrooms, sliced and 1 large onion, diced (or sliced, it doesn't really matter - it should be about 1 cup) in 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Be sure the oil is hot before adding mushrooms and onions.
 While the onion and mushroom are sauteing, mix 2 cups Ricotta cheese (you can use only 1-2/3 cups if you only have a 15 oz carton of ricotta.)
 2 cups small curd Cottage cheese,
 2 Eggs,
 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning,
 in a bowl. Stir until combined.
 Set aside.
 Once the mushrooms and onion are tender, add 4 cloves of crushed garlic. Cook 1 minute more.
 Stir 1/8 cup flour, 1 tsp black pepper and 1 tsp salt in with the onions and mushrooms.
 Next add 1-1/4 cup milk.
 I guesstimated the milk... close enough ;).
 Add the milk all at once to the pan.
  Let it get warm while sitting in the pan before whisking it.
 Continue to cook and stir until it thickens,
 which does take a few minutes,
 so you'll have to be a little patient.
 It is so tempting to reach down and steal a mushroom from the pan!
 I have to say that if you steal one, you'd probably want another and another, so best not to snitch! Unless you have more self control than I do...
 It's starting to thicken.
 Now it is nice and bubbly. Perfect.
 Once it is bubbly, turn off heat and add the other vegetables.
One 10 oz package of frozen chopped broccoli and One 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach - these both need to be thawed and drained.
 Mix well.
 Also add 1-1/2 cup shredded carrot (about 5-6 medium carrots) and 1 cup Parmesan Cheese. The carrot is best when shredded more finely. The thicker grated carrot doesn't cook completely and is still a little crunchy (how after cooking for 40 minutes I have no idea, but it's true!).
 Mix well. Taste and season with additional salt/pepper if necessary (do not over-salt it though because you will be adding cheese in the layers which gives some salt to the dish).
 Now we're ready to layer!
 In the bottom of a 9x13 pan, layer pasta to completely cover the bottom of the pan. I used half whole wheat and half white (mainly because I didn't have enough whole wheat to do the job and had some white lasagna noodles hanging around.)
 Next, spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles.
 Then top that with 1/3 of the veggies to the top of the cottage cheese. I will have to admit, I found it easiest to use my hands to evenly layer the veggies.
 I washed my hands a few times while assembling this lasagna... mainly so I wouldn't get my camera really yucky.
 Then add 1/3 of 8 ounces of grated Mozzarella cheese. 8 ounces grated is 4 cups loose and about 2 cups packed cheese (at least in my testing experience).
 Start the second layer with the noodles again.
 Then half of the remaining cottage mixture
 and half of the remaining veggie mixture,
 as well as half of the remaining grated Mozzarella cheese.
 Now for the last layers - the noodles,
 The remaining cottage cheese mixture (this is where you learn how good you judged the thirds!)
 I had to include the side view!
 Top with the last of the veggies.
 And the last of the Mozzarella cheese. Now, if you're family is as cheese crazy as mine, you'll want to grate a bit more Mozzarella for the top.
 Sprinkle with 1 cup Parmesan Cheese.
 Looks wonderful, now time to bake!
 Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until cheese starts to turn golden in spots and the whole casserole is warmed through.  I baked mine on a cookie sheet in case it spilled over as it was almost filled to the top!
 Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.

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  1. This looks amazing Crystal! I have made lots of lasagna but never a veggie one. After seeing this I can't imagine why. Looks better than a meat one! Right now I have an overload of veggies that I need to use up fast - I think they're headed for lasagna.

  2. I do enjoy meat, but I've been finding myself making a lot more vegetarian meals lately. This looks really delicious!


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