Thursday, December 8, 2011
With the price of meat increasing at an exponential rate, I've been exploring ways to have more meatless but filling meals. This resulted in an added benefit of having a greater budget for vegetables, which no matter how fanciful, are still cheaper per pound than most meats. As a result, when I decided to make a lasagna, instead of the meat, I used a greater variety of vegetables, differing in texture, flavor and quality.
This recipe is for a meatless lasagna made with eggplants, zucchinis, baby portobello mushrooms and peppers. Baby portobello mushrooms have a meatier texture than white crimini mushrooms, and together with eggplants provide enough density and flavor so that not even a seasoned meat eater will be left unsatisfied. Without the greasiness of sausage or ground meat, this lasagna is filling without letting one feel weighed down.
I used regular lasagna noodles in the recipe, however whole wheat noodles, which some might find too heavy in a meat-based lasagna, would work well in this recipe.
Eggplant and Zucchini Lasagna
You will need:
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
12 oz lasagna noodles (3/4 of 1 lb package)
1 medium white onion, peeled and sliced into strips
1 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green zucchinis, sliced into rounds
2 Italian eggplants (or 2 small eggplants), sliced into quartered rounds
1/2 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 tsp dried oregano
hot pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and a 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook lasagna noodles until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Strain and fill the pot with noodles with cold water; let stand until ready to assemble the lasagna.
2. In a medium pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add green and red bell peppers. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers are soft, 15-20 minutes.
3. In a large pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchinis and mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add eggplant slices, 1 tbsp chopped basil and 1 tbsp parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the mushrooms are tender, 25-30 minutes.
4. To make the tomato sauce, combine crushed tomatoes, 2 tbsp basil, salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Set aside.
5. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a lasagna dish or a disposable lasagna pan with 1 tbsp olive oil. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce evenly on the bottom of the dish. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta cheese evenly on top of the noodles. Follow with 1/2 of the eggplant mixture, and half of bell pepper mixture. Ladle 1/3 of the remaining tomato sauce on top, followed by 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Place another layer of lasagna noodles on top. Spread the remaining ricotta cheese over the noodles. Top with the remaining eggplant mixture and the remaining bell pepper mixture. Ladle 1/2 of the remaining tomato sauce over the vegetables and sprinkle with 1/2 of the remaining mozzarella cheese. Place another layer of noodles on top, and ladle the remaining tomato sauce over the noodles.
6. Cover the lasagna with foil, and place in the oven. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, until lasagna is steaming and starting to bubble. Carefully peel back the foil and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Cover and let cook about 5 minutes more, until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve garnished with fresh basil.