This weeks recipe post is a guest post from Nonna Box. A monthly food subscription or a onetime adventure of carefully curated gourmet Italian products that highlight a different Italian theme each month with a recipe from an Italian grandma and wine pairings from an Italian sommelier. I haven’t tried it out yet but I love Italian food so will have to try it soon!
Below they teach us how to make vegetable lasagna from scratch and I’ll have to give it a go. Everything not only tastes better but is healthier from scratch and I always like to pair foods like lasagna with a big salad so I can still keep half my plate full of vegetables and then just keep a smaller serve of something like lasagna. So let’s dive into the recipe, take it away Nonna Box.
Lasagna is one of those Italian dishes that pretty much everyone loves and how could you not? Full of pasta, tomato sauce, cheese and meats, lasagna is layered with one amazing taste after another. Yet along with all of those layers of deliciousness comes calories and fats that may be unwanted. So what should you do when you want a healthier version of an all time favorite? Make some vegetable lasagna from scratch! And you’re in luck, we have a great vegetable lasagna recipe to share with you.
What is Lasagna?
Before we dive head first into making vegetable lasagna, we should probably figure out what qualifies as a lasagna. While you may think that lasagna is the name of an Italian dish, you’ll be surprised to find out that it is actually the wide pasta strips that is the ‘lasagna’. However, over many many years (did you know the first recorded recipe for lasagna was made in the early 14th century?), the term lasagna has come to refer loosely to the baked dish consisting of wide strips of pasta which are cooked and then layered with meat, sauce, vegetables and cheese.
As one of the oldest types of pasta that we know of, it has gone through many various forms since the original lasagna was made. Because of this, we actually refer to a wide variety of baked pasta dishes as being lasagna. Lasagna noodles with sausage, tomato sauce and cheese? That’s lasagna. Wide noodles layered with ricotta and vegetables? That’s lasagna too. There are even versions of dessert lasagna which have sweet cheese in between chocolate noodles. Lasagna can be just about anything! So now, back to our vegetable version.
Starting With the Sauce
A good lasagna needs a good sauce and this hold true whether you are making a lasagna with meat or one with just vegetables. While it is easy to just grab a jar of tomato sauce off the shelves at the grocery store, making your own sauce is definitely worth the time. Be prepared though as making sauce is a labor of love and can’t be thrown together in a matter of minutes.
The biggest benefit to making your own sauce is that you can completely control what goes into the mix. Begin by picking the perfect tomatoes and I don’t mean tomatoes that look perfect, but rather ones that can withstand and grow in flavor after hours of cooking. San Marzano tomatoes are a perfect example of a hearty tomato (in fact, the San Marzano varietal is one of the most coveted sauce tomatoes in Italy) as is the Roma, Viva Italia and Amish Paste tomatoes. Tomato sauce is frequently made using canned tomatoes which is perfectly acceptable and delicious. You may only be able to find the amazing San Marzano tomatoes in the canned food aisle anyway!
As we are making vegetable lasagna, we need to have some great veggies which will be cooked right into the sauce. Let’s add some nutritional value to the sauce! Yellow squash, zucchini, bell pepper and mushrooms are all examples of fantastic vegetables that will hold together well when cooked for lengthy periods of time. However, go crazy and pick your favorite vegetables to layer into the lasagna. Maybe broccoli? Maybe eggplant? The options are endless.
The veggies are diced and then sautéed with onions, garlic and the vegetables before adding the tomatoes. Make sure to use a nice clean oil for cooking the vegetables- olive oil is always a great choice especially when making an Italian dish (did you know olive oil is loaded with antioxidants and anti inflammatories?). A few herbs go into the pot and then the waiting begins.
Sauce should be left to simmer for a long time, we are talking anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours. You really want to let the flavors of the vegetables and tomatoes mingle and cook down so the sauce is thick and less watery. However, after it has cooked and you have taste tested the sauce (many times hopefully!), it is done and ready for the lasagna noodles. Also, while the sauce is cooking, you can definitely be working on the other parts of the lasagna though- so many steps!
Almost as important as choosing good tomatoes for the sauce, choosing a quality cheese is imperative. Using fresh ricotta and mozzarella will make a huge difference in your lasagna. As we are trying to keep this lasagna on the healthier side, find a ricotta that is made with low fat milk. The taste will still be great but without the calories!
The ricotta filling is made by mixing the cheese with eggs and herbs-that’s it! Surprisingly simple, right? The mozzarella cheese is typically reserved for the top of the lasagna so all that you have to do with that for now is hold on to it and try not to nibble on too much as you make the lasagna!
There are two main kinds of lasagna noodles to choose from; the type that you have to boil like regular pasta and the type that is considered ‘no boil’. While the no boil noodles may seem appealing, I advise against them. After making many lasagnas, vegetable or otherwise, I can say from experience that the no- boil noodles always have a slightly hard texture. No one likes a crunchy lasagna! Take the extra time to cook the noodles the traditional way before making your lasagna.
You can look for different types of lasagna noodles such as whole wheat or vegetable based. Spinach lasagna noodles are hard to find but they are a fun green color and made with real spinach, giving them a little more nutrients than in plain lasagna noodles.
Once your noodles have been cooked and strained, your ricotta filling has been mixed and your sauce is bubbling away on the stove, you are ready to go!
Begin by spreading a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish you will be using. This step will help prevent the bottom lasagna noodle from sticking to the pan after it bakes. Next, lay the noodles across the bottom of the dish and top them with a generous portion of the ricotta filling. Another layer of that homemade vegetable sauce topped with a subsequent layer of noodle and again with the ricotta. Noodle, ricotta, sauce. Noodle, ricotta, sauce. Repeat this step until you use all of the noodles and your lasagna is at the top of the pan. End with a layer of sauce and get out that fresh mozzarella to sprinkle on top! Your vegetable lasagna creation is now put together!
Bake or Freeze
If you are planning on eating your vegetable lasagna soon, it is now ready for the oven. The lasagna does take a while to bake but will make your house smell fabulous as it cooks. Not interested in eating vegetable lasagna just yet, then wrap up the dish and pop it into the freezer. Lasagna freezes extremely well and whenever you need a dinner in the future, you can just take it out of the freezer and put it straight into the oven. You can’t beat a homemade vegetable lasagna for a pre-made meal!
Vegetable Lasagna Master
Now that you have the steps down and know how to make a vegetable lasagna from scratch, it is time to test your knowledge in the kitchen. Homemade tomato and vegetable sauce, fresh ricotta filling and nutritious noodles (I’m hoping you could find a substitute to white flour noodles!)…everyone will be impressed with your lasagna. Be aware that you are going to be asked to make this dish again and again…everyone loves lasagna, especially when it is packed with vegetables and made in a health conscious way! Enjoy!
The Vegetable Lasagna Recipe
Active Time: 1 hour
- 1 box whole wheat lasagna noodles )about 14 noodles
- 2 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 medium zucchinis, cubed
- 1 medium yellow squash, cubed
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup diced bell pepper
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 15 oz ricotta
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup mozzarella
Cook the noodles according to the box instructions and then set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pot and sauté the garlic and onions until the onions begin to be translucent.
Add the vegetables to the pot and stir. Let the vegetables steam and cook in the sauce pot for 5-8 minutes or until they begin to slightly soften.
Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan along with 2 cups water.
Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for an hour.
Add the salt, pepper and fresh basil to the sauce once it has thickened. Turn off the stovetop and keep the sauce warm on the oven for now.
In a medium sized bowl. mix the ricotta and egg together.
Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch dish
Layer 2-3 noodles across the bottom of the pan, over lapping slightly.
Spread a layer of ricotta on top of the cheese and then pour more vegetable sauce across the cheese. Add another layer of noodles
Repeat steps 9 and 10 until you reach the top of the casserole dish. Top the last noodle with sauce and the grated mozzarella.
Bake the lasagna in the pan for about 45 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. Once the sauce begins to bubble and the cheese is turning brown, the lasagna is done!
Wait about 10 minutes before trying to slice the lasagna. Enjoy hot!
-Broccoli, roasted red peppers, carrots and spinach are all tasty veggies that can be added to the sauce.
-If the cheese on top of the lasagna begins to brown before the dish is ready, cover the top in foil and keep baking!
I hope you enjoy!! Be sure to let me know in the comments below if you also make lasagna from scratch 🙂
To your health,
P.S. I’m running a Valentines Day Special at the moment on all my DNA health testing programs and so if this is something you have been interested in finding out more about Click HERE to schedule in a time to chat to me to find out whether this may be the right option for you.