I used to have a favorite vegetarian lasagna recipe that I made often, but in preparation for our move to Portland, I packed up the cookbook that contained the recipe and put it in storage for nearly a year. So whenever I wanted to make lasagna during that time, I just had to wing it. Now that the cookbook is unpacked, I haven't bothered to dig out the recipe because I now know the secret--lasagna is super easy to make and is very forgiving and versatile. It makes me wish I made more casseroles, because this type of recipe is so easy to prepare in advance and then pull out when you're ready to eat. (Do any of you have any good casserole recipes you'd like to share?) Usually I'll still pull up a basic lasagna recipe online, like this one from epicurious.com, just to make sure I'm not missing any vital ingredients or steps, but I've found that lasagna is a great dish for tossing in a variety of vegetables and herbs and turning out really well. Last night, I finally used up the last bit of garlic scape pesto that's been in my freezer since early summer--it was a tasty addition, and regular basil pesto would work well also. If you're out of pesto, though, just omit it and add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan to the ricotta mixture instead. I planned on using whole wheat lasagna noodles, but unfortunately I'm too lazy to use anything except the no-boil, oven-ready noodles that are now readily available--I couldn't find these in a whole grain version so I just used regular white pasta instead.
We also had a salad of mixed greens (frisée and radicchio), pepitas, and a sprinkle of crumbled gorgonzola, tossed with this mustard vinaigrette from epicurious.com.
Vegetable Lasagna with Pesto
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 9-ounce bag baby spinach (or 1 large bunch spinach, chopped)
1 15-ounce container low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup pesto
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 24-ounce jar pasta sauce
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms, and sauté until soft, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Add roasted red peppers and garlic, and stir for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach (in batches, if needed), tossing until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach mixture to a large colander to drain excess moisture, pressing gently with the back of a wooden spoon.
Blend ricotta, pesto, and egg in a large bowl. Stir in drained spinach mixture; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with oil. Spread 1/2 cup pasta sauce in bottom of dish. Arrange 3 noodles side by side atop sauce. Spread 1/3 of ricotta-spinach mixture over the noodles in a thin layer. Repeat layering with sauce, noodles, and ricotta-spinach mixture 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles and 1 cup sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the sauce.
Cover lasagna with foil. Bake 35 minutes. Uncover, and bake an additional 15 minutes or until heated through, sauce bubbles, and mozzarella is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings.