How To: The Perfect Vegetable Lasagna
There are days when I get home late from work and I’m exhausted. And the thought of making dinner just seems way too hard. These stressful evenings sometimes lead to not so healthy dinner choices….like a burrito bowl from the Chipotle across the street (with extra cheese). Last week was full of those long, exhausting days and I didn’t have any easy, ready-to-go foods at home. It ended up with frantic calls to Dario from the Metro, apologizing ahead of time for not being in the mood to cook him a wholesome dinner. Unfortunately we ended up relying on a variety of restaurants and a giant bag of Doritos as nourishment. Not good.
So whenever I have the time (or more importantly, the motivation) I love to cook a lot of dinners or parts of dinners on the weekend. That way I don’t have to rush when I get home for work to get something delicious on the table. Casseroles or baked dishes are really good for this. Make them ahead, stick them in the fridge or freezer and all I have to do is bake it the night of. One of my favorite make ahead dishes is vegetable lasagna. It’s really easy and I’ll eat just about anything if it’s baked with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese!
But vegetable lasagna can be tricky. I used to have some problems with it – many times having it come out like vegetable lasagna soup. It was so watery it didn’t stay together when I served it. It tasted pretty good, but looked like a soupy mess. One night, I had a bunch of left over roasted vegetables from my veggie panini recipe and figured what better way to use them up – lasagna! Well, the lasagna came out great – no water, no soupy disaster! Perfect! Why did it work this time around? Well, I figured out that it was because I used roasted vegetables. Most of the excess moisture in the veggies had evaporated in the roasting process. That allowed for a nice soup-free lasagna.
Now, in my vegetable lasagna I like to use roasted eggplant and zucchini. If you’re not a fan of either, you can substitute any vegetable you like. Spinach, broccoli, roasted peppers, etc. The important thing is, you have to get 90% of the moisture out! You can accomplish that by roasting (you can even roast broccoli) or squeezing it out – like you would with frozen spinach. I also added some silken tofu to my cheese mixture for added protein. You can’t taste it – I promise – but feel free to leave it out. But this does add more moisture to the cheese mix. My solution? Ring out the tofu in some paper towels or cheese cloth. Next I always add an egg (or some other binding agent) to the ricotta cheese mixture. This helps everything bind and set once cooked.
If these pictures don’t get you to try out my lasagna, I don’t know what will. Come on guys…hot and gooey cheese?! Yum! Here’s my recipe:
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4″ slices width-wise
- 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4″ slices length-wise
- 1 jar tomato sauce or about 2 cups of your own
- 1 1/2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
- 1 cup silken tofu, liquid squeezed out. Use a paper towel or cheese cloth to do this. (This is optional – if you’re not using tofu, just add in another cup of ricotta)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp both salt and pepper, divided
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat oven to 425. Place vegetable slices on a baking sheet lined with foil. Lightly spray/brush with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Roast for 45 mins-1 hour or until vegetables are lightly golden. Set aside. Reheat the oven to 400 F.
- In a large bowl, combine ricotta, drained tofu, beaten egg and 1 tsp salt and pepper. Mix well.
- In a medium casserole dish, spoon about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom – spread it out until it covers the entire bottom of the pan.
- Add one layer of eggplant, followed by 1 layer of zucchini.
- Add in about 3/4 cup of the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly over the vegetable layers. Top with a light layer of the shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese.
- Add another 1/4 cup of sauce and repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’ve used up all the vegetables. You should end with a layer of vegetables. If you don’t – oh well, it’ll be awesome anyways!
- Top last layer of vegetables with another 1/4 cup or so of sauce, spreading it out evenly. Add the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Drizzle/spray lightly with olive oil.
- Cover with aluminum foil and baked at 400 F for 35 minutes.
- Take foil off and cook another 10 minutes or until cheese is golden brown on top. You can broil it if you’re in a rush.
I hope you try out this recipe! If you do, let me know how it comes out and if you tried it with the tofu!