Roasted strips of eggplant, zucchini and red peppers alternate with lasagna sheets in this veggie-enhanced family favorite. It's just like lasagna, but lighter and fresher. No worries, though. There's enough gooey melted cheese and tomato sauce rippling through this version that the most ardent veggie haters (we won't point fingers) will be hard-pressed to complain.
When I shop the farmers market, I often purchase with my eyes, which means I purchase too much. Once home, I'll pile some of the prettiest vegetables and fruit in decorative bowls in the kitchen and on the dining table, where they double as edible centerpieces and my vegetable stash. Over the next few days, I dip into the arrangements to prepare meals and snacks. When the vegetables begin to lose their freshness, I think of ways to use a whole bunch of them at once, and mix them into soups and sauces, stews and gratins.
I frequently make this vegetable lasagna, which is a great way to use an abundance of Provencal-style produce, such as eggplants, squash and peppers. First, I roast the vegetables -- either in the oven or on the grill. Then I layer them into a casserole dish with uncooked lasagna sheets. I make a quick tomato sauce to spread between the layers with a generous amount of cheese. In a pinch, you can use jarred, good-quality marinara sauce for the homemade tomato sauce, and for a gluten-free gratin, you can omit the pasta and simply add more vegetables.
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Yield: 6 servings
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
1/4 cup medium-bodied red wine or water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large red bell peppers, halved, stemmed and seeded
1 large globe eggplant, sliced lengthwise, 1/4-inch thick
2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise, 1/4-inch thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces whole-milk ricotta
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup plus 2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 (16-ounce) box lasagna sheets (you won't use all of them)
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, shredded
1/3 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Add the onion and saute until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, wine, oregano, sugar, salt and black pepper and simmer, partially covered, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Heat the oven broiler. Place the peppers, cut-side down, in a single layer in a baking dish. Broil the peppers until the skin is blistered all over, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam for 10 minutes. Peel away the skin and cut the peppers into 1/2-inch strips.
While the peppers are steaming, generously oil a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the eggplant and zucchini slices in a single layer (in batches if necessary) in the pan, turn to coat in the oil, and season with the salt and pepper. Broil until golden and tender, flipping once, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate.
Whisk the ricotta, garlic, the 1/2 cup Pecorino and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl until smooth.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Assemble the lasagna: Spoon a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of an 8-by-10-inch baking dish or gratin dish. Place a layer of lasagna sheets over the sauce, breaking them to fit to size as necessary. Smear a thin layer, about 1/4-inch thick, of the ricotta over the pasta and arrange the eggplant slices over the ricotta. Spread the sauce over the eggplant, sprinkle with some of the Pecorino and some of the mozzarella.
Place another lasagna sheet over the cheese and repeat the layering process, substituting the zucchini for the eggplant. Repeat the layering process again, substituting the red peppers. Top with a final layer of lasagna sheets. Smear the remaining ricotta over the pasta and arrange any remaining vegetables, if you have any, over the ricotta. Spoon the remaining sauce over and around the vegetables and sprinkle with a final layer of Pecorino and mozzarella.
Cover the dish with foil and bake the lasagna in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is golden, the cheese is bubbling and the pasta is tender when inserted with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let stand 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Serve warm, garnished with the basil.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Photo by Lynda Balslev for TasteFood.