Lasagna is one of the ultimate comfort foods. The rich sauce, the melted cheese, and the velvety noodles all layered and warm…and the smell is divine! Lasagna is a dish I make when I want to give extra comfort to others (or perhaps to myself!). A few months ago, I posted my favorite recipe for classic lasagna with a meat sauce. Today, I am sharing a delicious vegetarian lasagna recipe. With so many fresh vegetables available this time of year, it makes sense to put them to good use. And honestly, this lasagna tastes great and feels really healthy. There are so many vitamins and minerals in it, with the fresh spinach, zucchini, carrot, and walnuts, you just know you are doing something good for your body. The recipe is based on one I found in the cookbook 100 Best Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles. I do change a few things when I make it, such as substituting walnuts for pine nuts, and using fresh instead frozen spinach, among a few other small details. I also like to use whole wheat noodles with milled flax seed with this recipe.
Luckily, the heat wave has broken and we are having some very comfortable, gorgeous weather–perfect for making something warm and cozy in the oven. With my kids going back to school and my husband struggling with a knee injury, I wanted to make something special and nourishing for all of us, to fortify us for the coming challenges. I will say that this lasagna is not a quick meal. It is one of those special recipes you use when you have a chunk of time. But it is so worth the effort, once you find that couple of hours to fit it in. And it tastes just as good warmed up the next day for leftovers!
I am sharing this wonderful, wholesome recipe on a special day–it is my first time co-hosting the Fiesta Friday link party! I am joined by Angie, whose recipes are always inspiring and whose photos are totally incredible, and who made the whole Fiesta Friday phenomenon possible, and Kaila@GF Life 24/7, whose blog has delicious recipes for people who are avoiding gluten or have other food allergies–and even if you don’t have a food allergy, her recipes look amazing. If you are a fellow blogger, I encourage you to add your link to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #85, where you will encounter many talented bloggers with wonderful recipes and photos. The posts do not have to be about food, though most are. Just follow the guidelines, and visit the other blogs you see linked to the fiesta. It’s a great way to learn about blogs you might now otherwise see, and a great way to let others know about your own blog. Although I am relatively new to the scene, I have been participating in Fiesta Friday for almost a year, and the bloggers involved are so welcoming and encouraging. I have learned so much by visiting their blogs, and I feel a real sense of a blogging community with them. Please feel welcome to join if you wish!
I will close with an excerpt of a poem I came across yesterday. We are coming up on the season of fall, with all kinds of stunning natural beauty around us, and I am amazed when I look around me at the mist in the fields in the morning, or the lingering blooms of some of the flowers. But sometimes it can be a challenge to see the beauty when there are difficulties going on in the larger world, or in our own personal worlds. Sometimes people we encounter act in less than beautiful ways, or sometimes we ourselves act in ways we wish we could do over. While we are trying to solve problems and right wrongs, it is important to remember to look for the beauty too. This quote reminds me to seek it in good food, in nature, and in the natural beauty of people. It is from the poem “The Rhodora”, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, about a beautiful flowering plant similar to the rhododendron: “Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why/This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,/Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,/Then Beauty is its own excuse for being….”
For the Sauce: (If you are in a hurry, skip making the sauce from scratch and use four cups of store-bought sauce)
- 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup of chopped onions
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 14 ounces of canned tomatoes, undrained (if they are not diced, you can break them with a spoon while they are simmering)
- 3/4 cups of water
- 1/4 cup of tomato paste
- 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of oregano, dried
- a few sprinkles of thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper
For the Filling:
- 1/3 cup of finely chopped walnuts
- 1 egg
- 15 ounces of ricotta cheese
- 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 and 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (either Fontina, Provolone, Asiago, or a combination of the three)
- 3/4 cups of shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- approximately 5 ounces of fresh spinach, with as much water dried and squeezed out as possible and chopped coarsely
- one small or 1/2 of a large zucchini, finely sliced
- one large carrot, peeled and finely sliced
- 12 lasagna noodles
For the sauce, in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. About a minute before the onions are soft, add the garlic so it turns golden and fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions.
For the filling, place the walnuts in a small skillet. Cook them over low heat for just a couple of minutes. Remove them from the heat and chop finely. In the same skillet, add a bit of olive oil and sauté the sliced zucchini and carrot until just tender. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Then stir in the ricotta and walnuts. Add 1 cup of the mozzarella, the other shredded cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, and the pepper. Stir well to combine. Then stir in the spinach, zucchini, and carrot.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread half of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Place 4 of the lasagna noodles on top of the sauce in the dish. Spread half of the ricotta filling over the four noodles. Then top with four more noodles. Spread the rest of the ricotta filling on top of the noodles. Top with four more noodles. Spread the remaining sauce over the noodles.
Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. After 30 minutes, pull the lasagna out and sprinkle it with the remaining cup of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Put it back in the oven and continue baking it for another 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let it stand for 15 minutes before slicing it. Enjoy!
This recipe is adapted from 100 Best Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles