Thursday, February 21, 2008
I am way behind with recipe posting; I think I made this three weeks ago! So I’ll be brief. This is a good, basic vegetarian lasagna recipe, which is exactly what I was hungry for at the time. I found it in Vegetarian Suppers From Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, courtesy of the local library. Changes I made to the recipe: it originally called for 1 cup of finely chopped walnuts or pine nuts, added in thirds right after each ricotta layer, but I left that out because I thought the crunchiness would interrupt the smooshy texture I was longing for. Having forgotten to photocopy Deborah Madison’s recipe for tomato sauce (which was in another section of the book) at the same time I copied the lasagna recipe, I was forced to punt: I wanted something plain and non-chunky, so I just sautéed a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in about a tablespoon of olive oil, added two 14-ounce cans of Trader Joe’s plain organic tomato sauce, and seasoned with pepper, fresh oregano, and dried basil (I didn’t have fresh on hand). It was easy and tasted great. Use whatever tomato sauce you feel like.
In all, I was surprised by how quickly this dish came together—I made it on a weeknight, even—and I would certainly make it again, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of lasagna recipes for me. There was a significant amount of zucchini; I kept feeling like it was almost on the verge of being too much, but then it was nice to see and taste something green in the otherwise cheesy-noodliness of the finished product. I should have sautéed the zucchini a bit less long, though—I took the “until it glistens and is tender” directive a bit too seriously, forgetting that the zucchini would then be baked for another 40 minutes. And if 40 minutes is long enough to soften no-boil lasagna noodles, it’s certainly long enough to soften zucchini. They became a little too army-green for me. Next time I’ll stick to the “5 minutes” part of the directive instead.
Speaking of no-boil lasagna noodles, can you believe I’d never used them before? What a miracle of modern technology! Not only are they easy to use, but I also prefer the texture to “regular” lasagna—they retain a slight firmness that’s not only pleasingly al dente to eat, but also helps the casserole maintain its structural integrity, for easier slicing and serving. I now have half a box left and am itching to use them, so look out for more lasagna recipes in the future.
2½ cups tomato sauce
1 pound ricotta cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ½ pounds small zucchini
olive oil as needed
8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles (12 noodles)
½ pound fresh mozzarella cheese, grated or shredded
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-12-inch baking pan.
2. If ricotta is densely textured, thin it with several tablespoons water and season with salt and pepper. If it’s milky and wet, set it in a fine strainer to drain (season with salt and pepper before using).
3. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut each half into diagonal slices as thinly as possible. Heat the oil (I used 1–2 tablespoons) in a large nonstick skillet. Add the zucchini and cook over medium-high heat, turning frequently, until it glistens and is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Spread ½ cup tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and set 3 noodles over it. Cover with a third of the ricotta and a third of the zucchini. Cover with ½ cup of the tomato sauce, a quarter of the mozzarella, and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Add the second layer of noodles and repeat twice more (in case you’re confused—I know I was—that’s ricotta, zucchini, tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, noodles, ricotta, zucchini, tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, noodles). Cover the final layer of pasta with the remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
5. Cover the dish with foil and bake until bubbling hot, about 40 minutes. Let rest for several minutes before serving.
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes