Summer Vegetable Lasagna
A few weeks ago some friends came over to do our fantasy football draft. It was starting to get cool out and I wanted something that could feed a lot of people easily: lasagna was calling my name. However, I wanted something light and vegetarian, which sent me to one of my favorite cookbooks, Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook.
I love Bittman’s philosophy to healthy food: sane eating. He advocates for eating less meat by using it as a seasoning in food instead of the star and incorporating as many plants as you can. His recipes accomplish this by upping the veggies and using about half the meat you would expect in a dish, or none at all. This is one of those, cram-as-many-recipes-as-we-can cookbooks that has no pictures so it can be hard to pick a recipe.
Bittman’s ‘Grilled Vegetable and Fresh Tomato Lasagna’ came out beautiful and was absolutely delicious. The amazing thing about this recipe is that there is no tomato sauce. Instead, roasted (or grilled) eggplant, zucchini, onions, and portobello mushrooms are layered with slices of fresh tomatoes and a basil-garlic-ricotta-mozzarella mixture (and of course noodles). The basil-cheese mixture was delicious and really brought the whole dish together. The tomatoes when baked let off just enough juices that the lasagna stayed moist. The result was a delicious, lightened up lasagna perfect for late summer.
Bittman wrote the recipe for the grill but in the intro suggests you can also roast them. I don’t have a grill (or outdoor space!) so opted for roasting. It took a few batches because my oven is so small but it was worth it. I did not make any tweaks to Bittman’s recipe but have rewritten it in my own words and offered advice throughout on a few things I discovered along the way.
The first and most time-consuming part is roasting all of the veggies. Cut the eggplant and zucchini lengthwise. Don’t be like me and cut the eggplant into circles without reading the recipe. Slice the onions into rings leave the portobellos whole; you can chop those after they are cooked.
Place your vegetables on cookie sheets, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat. I recommend under-salting the vegetables. I salted like I would normally when roasting vegetables and discovered that once they were all stacked together in a lasagna and combined with the cheese mixture that it was a touch too salty.
I recommend organizing the veggies by type on your cookie sheets because they will likely take different amounts of time. Zucchini will be the fastest and onion the longest. Make sure to flip the veggies halfway through so both sides brown. My veggies roasted for about 15-18 minutes, until they started to get brown spots.
As the veggies are cooked, place them on a wire rack to cool and wait for assembly. Once the portobellos are ready, slice them into strips.
While the veggies cook, make the cheese mixture. In a food processor, combine the basil, garlic, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, egg, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Blend until well mixed and the basil is finely chopped.
To assemble, start with a layer of noodles. Then spread the cheese mixture on the noodles followed by a layer the roasted veggies. I did one full layer zucchini and eggplant and then sprinkled the onions and portobellos on top. Finish with tomatoes and repeat. Bittman said to repeat twice, for a total of 3 layers but I don’t know how the is possible! I ended up with two full layers that came perfectly at the top of my pan. On your final layer, finish with tomatoes and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Because I only ended up with two layers, I had enough ingredients to make a second, mini lasagna in a smaller pan. Bonus!
Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 until the cheese on the top has melted and it looks done. Let cool for a few minutes and serve!
I don’t have a good picture of it sliced because I was rushing to draft my football team, but it was beautiful and delicious. And was great as leftovers the next day.
Summer Vegetable Lasagna
- 1 large eggplant cut lengthwise into ¼ inch think strips
- 2 zucchini cut lengthwise into ¼ inch think strips
- 3 portobello mushrooms
- 1 large onion sliced into ¼ inch slices
- 3 tbls olive oil
- salt and black pepper
- 9 dried lasagna noodles
- 4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese chopped
- 4 oz 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 4 tbls parmesan cheese
- 1 cup whole basil leaves
- 1 tbls garlic minced
- 1 egg
- 4 ripe tomatoes cut into ¼ inch slices
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice your veggies and prep the eggplant. Sprinkle eggplant liberally with salt and let rest in a colander for 20 minutes, then rinse and pat dry.
Lay the eggplant, zucchini, portobellos, and onion slices out on cookie sheets. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and spread so each is covered evenly. Lightly salt and pepper them. I recommend arranging the veggies so that like veggie are together. Zucchini will cook faster than the others.
Roast the veggies for 15 to 18 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they have some nice brown spots. Remember, the original recipe was to grill them, so you definitely want some browning. You may have to roast in batches. As they finish, move the veggies to a wire rack to cool.
When the portobellos are done roasting and have cooled enough to handle, slice them into strips.
While the veggies are roasting you can start on the noodles and cheese mixture. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles until tender but still too hard to eat, about 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the noodles and lay them flat on towels until you are ready to use them.
To make the cheese mixture, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 2 tbls of parmesan, basil, garlic, egg, and a little salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend until a thick mixture has formed and the basil has been cut into tiny pieces, about 30 seconds.
Now, assemble the lasagna. Grease a 8 or 9 inch baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil. Place 3 noodles in the bottom of the pan; it is okay if they overlap. Cover the noodles with a thin layer of the cheese mixture, then layer with vegetables. I did a full layer of eggplant, a full layer of zucchini, and then sprinkled the onion and portobellos across the top. Finally, layer with sliced tomatoes. Repeat one to two more times, depending on your pan. I only had room for two layers total, Bittman says you can get three in there. Because I only ended up with two layers, I had enough ingredients to make a second, mini lasagna in a loaf pan.
On your final layer, finish with tomatoes and top with remaining 2 tbls of grated parmesan cheese.
Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 until the cheese on the top has melted and it looks done. Let cool for a few minutes and cut into 6 pieces and serve!