Aka: Vegetarian (or not) Lasagne by Kayak Woman with help from a few others who have gone before

I have made this lasagne so many times I can just about do it in my sleep. The recipe is pretty long but once you have made it a few times it gets to the point that you don’t have to think about it much. If I’m feeling like a walking train wreck I definitely look at the recipe before starting it to make sure I have all of the ingredients on hand and I make a written shopping list if I don’t.

This is my most frequent variation but there are others. If I know somebody is fussy about mushrooms, I might omit those. Depending on who they are and why they are fussy, that is 😉 I might add carrots or other veggies to the filling. I frequently add sweet Italian sausage if I know there won’t be any vegetarians. I have been known to use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic. That’s garlic *powder*, not garlic salt. But usually I manage to muster enough energy to use fresh garlic.

Crushed, chopped, minced, diced? Say what? If I am not feeling lazy, I will chop the onions into little pieces. I will dice the peppers into, oh about quarter-inch pieces. I will crush the garlic. I rarely feel energetic enough about cooking to *mince* anything. More likely, I will throw the onion and the garlic and the peppers into my trusty old Cuisinart and keep hitting the pulse button until it is all chopped up. What can I say? I am lazy.

The sauce can be made ahead of time and frozen. It’ll be fine. You can use it whenever you want.

The noodles do NOT have to be pre-cooked!!!! Repeat! The noodles do NOT have to be pre-cooked! Just put the lasagne together with dry noodles. They’ll cook just fine and it’ll be easier to put together.

Without further ado…

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • a few cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped or diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped or diced
  • mushrooms, 8-12 oz. (I’m lazy and buy the ones that are already sliced)
  • oregano (shake some in)
  • basil (shake some in)
  • black pepper (shake some in)
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes (or whatever style you want, or home-canned if you have them)
  • 1 14-oz. can tomato sauce (make sure you read the label and don’t grab some silly flavored kind)
  • 1 cup (or thereabouts, just dump it in) leftover wine, red or white, pretty much whatever you have hanging around (NOT sherry or port or vermouth or “cooking” wine)

Filling ingredients:

  • 8 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (I more often do fresh spinach leaves these days — rinse them)
  • 2 eggs
  • Ricotta cheese (12 oz. or whatever that typical sized container is)
  • black pepper (a couple little shakes)
  • nutmeg (a little shake)

Other ingredients:

  • 12 lasagne noodles (any kind, these do NOT have to be pre-cooked)
  • 1# mozzarella cheese (pre-shredded for the lazy, like me)
  • 1/2 cup or so of parmesan cheese (again, pre-shredded works)

How to make the sauce:

  1. Saute the onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms in the olive oil until the onions are soft. Stir it around a bit. It should take about five minutes.
  2. Shake some basil, oregano, and black pepper into the vegetables.
  3. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and dump some wine in.
  4. Bring it to a slow boil (I usually set it to a tad over medium heat) and when it starts bubbling, turn it down and let it simmer for a while. Watch it until it settles into a nice simmer without overboiling the pot (yes, I would know about that) or stick to the bottom (that too). How long? Oh, I dunno, about an hour, maybe. Pour in some more wine or water if needed. It should be relatively thick, not too watery. Whatever that means.

How to make the filling:

  1. Heat the frozen spinach in enough water to cover it until it is thawed. Drain it and set aside. You could certainly use fresh spinach. I am usually too lazy to mess around with it. Rinse your nice fresh spinach well. (You can use the frozen kind but it is so easy to buy a bag or box of cleaned spinach leaves nowadays, I usually just do that instead.)
  2. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat them with a fork or whisk, just enough to combine them.
  3. Add the ricotta and mix with the eggs.
  4. Shake in a little black pepper and a smidge of nutmeg.

How to put it all together:

Okay. You have some sauce. And you have some ricotta filling. And probably some spinach. And noodles. And mozzarella cheese. And some parmesan. Save the parmesan for the very top.

  1. Spread a very thin layer of sauce over the bottom of the pan (just enough to get it wet). Pan? Hmm. 10×15 or thereabouts. A 9×13 might work if it’s deep enough, otherwise you’ll prob’ly get overflow.
  2. Layer four noodles across the sauce. Again, do NOT pre-cook the noodles. It isn’t necessary.
  3. Spread the noodles with one half of the ricotta filling. Spread one half of the spinach over the ricotta filling. If you’re adding carrots or something, they can be added here too. If you are using Italian sausage, you can either spread half of *that* here or it could be mixed into the sauce. Your choice.
  4. Pour about a third of the remaining sauce over the filling.
  5. Cover the filling with about a third of the mozzarella cheese.
  6. Layer the cheese with four more noodles.
  7. Spread the rest of the ricotta filling onto the noodles. Spread the rest of the spinach over the ricotta filling. Again, carrots et al or Italian sausage can go here if you want.
  8. Pour another third of the sauce over the filling.
  9. Spread another third of the mozzarella over the sauce.
  10. Layer the cheese with the last four noodles.
  11. Pour the rest of the sauce over the noodles.
  12. Spread the rest of the mozzarella over the sauce.
  13. Top with parmesan.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil (or if it has a top, use that). Bake 45 minutes to an hour at 350. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes until the top is a little brown. Not black, as yours truly has been known to do. Take the lasagne out of the oven and let it rest 15 or 20 minutes. If you don’t want to bake it right away, you can leave it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours (or thereabouts) and then bake it or freeze it and bake it later.

Influences: Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, The Commander, and Radical Betty