When there's a big crowd to feed, there are few dishes that fit the bill better than a big pan of lasagna - particularly when some of those friends are vegetarians.
Since I didn't have a go-to vegetarian lasagna recipe in my repertoire, I decided it was time to give my favourite lasagna recipe a meat-free makeover by replacing the usual meat sauce with a simple marinara sauce and blend of chunky vegetables roasted until yieldingly soft and ever so slightly charred.
I must say, I'm really pleased with the results.
It's got all the elements that make homemade lasagna so delicious - that gratifyingly substantial belly-warming goodness, a surprisingly hearty flavour that belies its vegetarian origins, and that ever-important ooey-gooey melted cheese layer on top.
On the flipside, it's also got more than half of your daily requirement of vitamins A and C, and healthy amounts of calcium and fiber. It's good-for-you food masquerading as naughty comfort food.
Meat? In the words of Tony Soprano, fuggehdaboudit.
I know the length of the recipe might seem daunting if you've never made lasagna before. That's especially true when it comes to this recipe, since I basically make everything but the noodles from scratch, but it's actually quite easy once you get the hang of it.
If it helps, take comfort in the fact that almost all of the components of this recipe (namely the roasted vegetables, the marinara sauce and the ricotta layer) can all be assembled a day or two in advance... or you can just skip the homemade marinara and use a good-quality jarred sauce instead.
All that's left to do on the day of is to boil the noodles, assemble the lasagna and then pop it into the oven until bubbly and delicious.
See? Not so scary at all.
Besides, it'll all be worth it when eleven beaming faces look back at you, bellies full of healthy vegetables, hearty pasta and gooey cheese. That's absolutely worth it.
Roasted vegetables gives this vegetarian lasagna a ton of hearty flavour... you won't even miss the meat! If you can't find La Bomba sauce, substitute with sundried tomato pesto or regular basil pesto.
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 medium-sized zucchini
- 1 medium-sized Asian eggplant
- 4 medium-sized portobello mushrooms
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp each salt and pepper
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (796 ml each) crushed tomatoes
- 1 can (156 ml) tomato paste
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 container (450g) ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 package (255g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 16 lasagna noodles, cooked as per package directions
- 1 cup La Bomba sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables for roast. Cut the red peppers into quarters, removing the seeds and stem. Slice the zucchini and eggplant into ½" thick slices. Remove the thick stems from the portobellos.
- Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet (use two sheets if necessary). Brush with oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and shredded basil. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then flip over and roast for 10-15 minutes longer, or until vegetables are browned on the edges and soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the sauce. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, or until soft and lightly coloured. Add tomato puree, tomato paste and wine, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to blend.
- Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 350F, and roughly chop the cooled vegetables into bite-sized chunks. Transfer the chopped vegetables to a bowl, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the baking sheet.
- Lastly, prepare the ricotta-spinach layer by whisking together the ricotta, parmesan, basil, eggs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Squeeze out all the excess moisture from the spinach, then stir into the ricotta until evenly combined.
- To assemble the lasagna, spoon a thin layer of sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Cover with a layer of four lasagna noodles (you'll need four per layer), followed by half of the roasted vegetables and a ½ cup of sauce. Top with another layer of lasagna noodles. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly on top, followed by a thin layer of La Bomba. Top with a third layer of lasagna noodles, and spread with the last of the roasted vegetables and another ½ cup of marinara. Top off with one last layer of noodles. Pour the remaining marinara sauce overtop, then sprinkle evenly with mozzarella.
- Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 5-10 minutes longer, or until lasagna is bubbly and cheese is melted and golden-brown.
- Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the lasagna to firm up, then cut into pieces and serve piping hot with a green salad and crusty bread.