A few weeks ago Sheri made this dish for a soccer team dinner. The girls on the team loved it. I figured if they loved it, maybe my boys would love it too. So I got to work on Saturday night, and made a pan for Sunday. You know, the day of rest. All of those veggies, layers of cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan. Tomatoes. Pesto. Yum, the pesto totally sets this dish apart from other veggie pasta dishes. Gave the ricotta layer a nice flavor boost. As I was putting it together, I thought- am I going to hear crying from the boys (like they are girls) when they discover this is an all veggie lasagna? Arrrrrgh. So, being the perfect mother I am, and part psychic, I made half vegetablearian (I know, not a word) and half sausage. Sunday comes. I bake up the dish. What is this, they ask? I tell them. Uh. “NO MEAT?” They say.
“No, it’s a veggie lasagna and you are going to love it” I say. They are all giving each other “the look”. Finally I admit I hedged and made half with meat. I tell them if they would try the veggie side, they would love it! Grant looks at me and says (in his Neanderthal way):
“We like meat because we are Carnivores.”
Oh, really. Wow. Revelation.
Sheri’s Pesto Veggie Lasagna
1 sweet medium onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-15 oz cans of tomato sauce
1- 6 oz can tomato paste
1- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons basil
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
6 drops hot pepper sauce, optional
Other filling ingredients:
8-10 mushrooms, medium, washed and sliced
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3-4 cups fresh spinach, washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 3/4 cups Ricotta cheese
7-8 oz pesto (Sheri uses about 1 1/2 cups)*
1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan, grated
1 cup grated mozzarella, for top of lasagna
1 box no boil lasagna pasta
Combine olive oil and one chopped onion in large saucepan over medium high heat. Cook just until onion is softened about 5 minutes. Add rest of ingredients, turn down heat and simmer while preparing rest of dish.
In another skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat, add mushrooms, saute until lightly browned. Remove from pan and place in bowl. Saute chopped onion and red pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Add onion back to skillet, and toss in spinach. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the spinach starts to lose shape, but is not completely wilted. The spinach will continue to cook in the oven. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the Ricotta cheese, egg, and pesto. Slice the fresh mozzarella and set aside.
Spray a 9×13 pan with Cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the pan with about 3/4 cup of the sauce. Spread around until sauce is covering the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of the lasagna noodles across the pan. Do not overlap the noodles, they will expand when baking. Place the pasta three across. There will be a little gap between the edge of the pasta and the pan. Layer the lasagna as follows:
1/2 of ricotta mixture
1/3 of remaining sauce
1/2 of vegetable mixture
1/2 of sliced cheese
3 more sheets of pasta
repeat layers and end with sauce layer on top
Cover pan with foil. Place in refrigerator overnight if using next day, or you may freeze at this point. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator, and let sit on counter for 1/2 to 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil. Bake an additional 15 minutes until hot and bubbly. Top with remaining 1 1/2 cups of combined grated Parmesan and mozzarella. Broil or set oven to convection bake until cheese on top is slightly golden.
Remove from oven, and let sit for 15 minutes before slicing.
-*Sheri uses pesto to give more flavor to the veggie based lasagna. I loved it. She buys the Costco pesto and uses about half of the container, which I love, but didn’t have any in my fridge and didn’t want to make another trip to COSTCO just for pesto, cause you know then it would have cost me $100 (at least) for that one jar of pesto, bc you can’t buy just one item at Costco. Instead, I bought a 7 oz container of Butoni pesto in the refrigerated section at my local grocery.
-If you aren’t into the no-bake pasta( I like it because it is thinner than the traditional style lasagna that needs boiling) you may use traditional style and boil the pasta. Assemble and bake the same.
-If freezing the dish for later baking, cover with plastic wrap and foil. Freeze. Remove from freezer when ready to bake. Remove plastic wrap and replace foil. Bake for about 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove foil about last 30 minutes of baking. Top with last layer of cheese just before broiling.