A Lighter Vegetarian Lasagna
My two boys love lasagna. My husband likes all sorts of things in his – ground beef, kale or spinach, zucchini, bell peppers, etc etc smothered in tomato sauce and melted mozzarella with a thick layer of ricotta in the middle. My son likes it a bit more simple with ground turkey and kale along with the tomato sauce and the cheeses.
I make my husband’s version often. It usually gets cut into individual pieces and put in the freezer so he can easily grab lunch on his way to work. My son usually gets his version when it is cooler outside.
But this is my version of lasagna. I may eat a couple of bites of my husbands and a slice of my son’s favorite lasagnas, but it is usually too heavy for me to eat much of. I like fresh veggies and herbs, with a thin layer of ricotta, a light sauce, and a sprinkle of cheese on top.
And Jelani loved it. His eyes got big when he saw me take it out of the oven and he didn’t even make it to the table before he started eating it. He polished that piece off and then had another large piece. So much for leftovers for the week!
This particular recipe came from what I already had in the refrigerator from the farmers market combined with what I had on hand. Going through my vegetable bin, I picked out 3 fresh ears of corn on the cob, a red bell pepper, and three small summer squash. And I had picked up some beautiful squash blossoms at the farmers market but forgot to use them for a few days and found them starting to wilt. So into the lasagna they went as well! This is a great place to use up any veggies you may have.
Usually, I use regular store-bought lasagna noodles. But thanks to my good friend Corey, I have beautiful, homemade, fresh spinach pasta dough. Look at that beautiful bright green!
I put the dough through my pasta roller to make the thin lasagna noodles and then dropped them in well-salted gently boiling water for about a minute. Reserve that pasta water!
If you choose to use no-boil lasagna noodles (my usual go-to), awesome choice to make building this lasagna easier and quicker! Use vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water in place of the reserved pasta water.
While the noodles were cooling, cut the kernels off the ears of corn and chopped up the red bell pepper and summer squash to pieces similar in size to the corn kernels. Tear up the squash blossoms and toss them in a bowl with the other vegetables and add in some minced garlic, dried basil (although if you have fresh, it would be fantastic here!), and some of the reserved pasta water and olive oil.
In another bowl, mix up the ricotta, parmesan, egg, and seasonings and add some of the reserved pasta water to thin the mixture out a little. Then build your layers.
My layers went noodles (briefly dipped back in the pasta water before placing into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish), half of the veggie mixture, noodles, cheese mixture, the other half of the veggie mixture, the rest of the noodles, and some fresh mozzarella and sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
I prepped this in the morning to cook for dinner because I wasn’t sure when I would be finished running around with all my son’s activities. At this point, I covered the baking dish tightly with foil and placed in the refrigerator. I took it out and placed it on the counter for about 45 minutes before putting it in the oven. You can definitely take it straight from the fridge and put it in the oven and add a few extra minutes to the cooking time.
Bake for about 40 – 45 minutes (about half of the time covered and rest uncovered) until the cheese on top is melty and brown and the edges of the top noodles have turned crispy and golden brown. Let the finished lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and eating. Enjoy!
A Lighter Vegetarian Lasagna
- 1 package lasagna noodles or
- 1 lb fresh pasta dough to make your own
- olive oil
- salt for boiling the noodles
- a couple of extra ounces of parmesan cheese and mozzarella (each) for the top.
- 3 ears corn on the cob
- 3 small summer squash
- 1 red bell pepper
- 8 squash blossoms
- 4 tbsp reserved pasta water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ tsp dried basil (use fresh if you have it!)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb ricotta
- 2 oz parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp dried parsly (use fresh if you have it!)
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp reserved pasta water
- pepper to taste (I added a small pinch)
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- If not using no-boil lasagna noodles, cook the noodles according to package directions in well salted water. Reserve the pasta water.
- Cut the kernels from the corn cobs and place into a large bowl. Cut the other vegetables into small pieces, similar in size to the corn, and add to the bowl. Mix in the torn or cut squash blossoms, minced garlic, basil, salt, olive oil, and reserved pasta water. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Mix the ricotta, parmesan, egg, and seasonings in a separate bowl. Thin the mixture out with some pasta water until you get a spreadable consistency.
- Coat the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil. If using no-boil lasagna noodles, layer the noodles on the bottom. If you cooked your lasagna noodles, quickly dip them back into the pasta water before placing them in the baking dish.
- Spread half of the veggie mixture on the bottom layers of noodles and then top with another layer of noodles, dipping them in the pasta water as you go.
- Spread the cheese mixture on the next layer of noodles and then put the second half of the veggies on top. Put the last layer of noodles on top, dipping them into the pasta water.
- Top with some of the mozzarella cheese, either shredded or broken into small pieces, and finish with a light dusting of parmesan cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking another 20 – 25 minutes until the cheese is melted and lightly browned and the edges of the noodles become crispy.
- Rest the lasagna for about 10 minutes after removing from the oven. Slice, serve, enjoy!