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

Tweaked 4/20/24

I have made this lasagna so many times I can just about do it in my sleep. This is more of a plan than a recipe. I make it all kinds of ways. It looks long and complicated 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 put them in my shopping list app so I don’t by-pass something essential in the store.

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. I frequently add sweet Italian sausage if I know there won’t be any vegetarians. (Most of my old vegetarians are omnivores these days but I still accommodate those who remain veggies.)

Crushed, chopped, minced, diced? Say what? If I am not feeling lazy, I chop the onions into little pieces. I dice the peppers into, oh about quarter-inch pieces. I crush the garlic. I rarely feel energetic enough about cooking to *mince* anything. More likely, I will throw the onion and the garlic and bell pepper 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. Also, if you have your own special tomato sauce, use that!!! Or even Ragu. It’s handy in a pinch🐸

The noodles do NOT have to be pre-cooked!!!! Repeat! The noodles do NOT have to be pre-cooked! Just put the lasagna 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 (or garlic powder – not garlic salt)
  • 1 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)
  • if making non-veggie, sweet Italian sausage (cooked)
  • if making veggie, spinach, carrot (grated or sliced), patty-pan squash are all good, one or more
  • 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 some in) leftover wine, red or white, pretty much whatever you have hanging around (NOT sherry or port or vermouth or “cooking” wine)

Ricotta filling ingredients:

  • 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 lasagna 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)
  • Spinach and/or other veggies.

How to make the sauce:

  1. Saute the onions, garlic, bell pepper, 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. Add cooked Italian sausage.

  5. 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 over-boiling the pot (yes, I would know about that) or stick to the bottom (that too). How long? Oh, I dunno, about an hour at the most. 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. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat them with a fork or whisk, just enough to combine them.
  2. Add the ricotta and mix with the eggs.
  3. 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 maybe some spinach or other veg. 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. My go-to pan is a little bigger. If I’m outta town and my pan is not handy, a foil pan from the grocery store works.
  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. (That was the infamous time, one of the beach urchins wrote on the other beach urchin’s beloved yellow sweatshirt with a black marker and I got a wee bit distracted.) Take the lasagna 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