Meatless Monday: Lasagna

     In our household, as in many households around the world, Eric and I are fans of Italian cuisine.  It is homey, satisfying, and a pleasure to the palate.  When I was growing up at home my mom was famous for her lasagna.  It wasn’t her recipe but one she had collected and saved from a newspaper clipping.  While most knew Pittsburgh Steeler’s great Franco Harris for his immaculate reception, in our home it was his lasagna recipe that was famous.  What made it so wonderful was the fact that the recipe called for uncooked noodles.  My mom just layered the raw, dry noodles in the pan and they cooked up great, right in the oven.  Mom served this up for company a lot and people would oh and ah over it.  “Lasagna is so hard,” they would say.  We knew the little secret that made it easier, and at my mom’s discretion she sometimes shared it.
     It has been ages since I made lasagna.  I used to make it frequently and in different variations.  I used my mom’s favorite recipe (before she went gluten-free) as well as one I made up for vegetable lasagna with a béchamel sauce. Both are fantastic but when cooking for two it is a little, well, much. We are never able to finish the whole thing in the acceptable amount of time (Eric has leftover phobias) and end up tossing some of it out, which I hate doing.  Our lack of a microwave, also makes it a challenge to heat up just one slice.  One day while shopping I came across the greatest le creuset ovenware, perfect for lasagna for two.  I showed it to Eric and he immediately agreed.  I purchased two of the petite casseroles (approx. 5 in x 7 in) and for this recipe I used both dishes.  With only 3 noodles in each entire casserole, theoretically, one could have their own dish. However if your appetite is light, there will be one piece left for lunch at work the next day.
     Last night for dinner we feasted on this easy recipe I came up with for a red sauced veggie lasagna.  I call it Meaty Vegetable Lasagna because of the savory meaty flavors imparted from the mushrooms and oil cured black olives. I love Barilla oven ready lasagna sheets for the lasagna I make these days. A flat noodle, it cooks up beautifully in the oven, giving the final product a homemade pasta look and taste.  On the box it claims it is a no boil noodle, but in my experience you don’t have to boil the regular noodles anyway. With a few changes in quantity this can be easily adapted to make one larger lasagna to feed a crowd.  Leave me a comment:  What’s your favorite lasagna recipe?

Meaty Vegetable Lasagna for Lovers (or Loved Ones)

Serves 2 + lunch leftovers print
  • 2 zucchini sliced longways 
  • 6 oz oil cured black olives, pits removed & chopped (approx. 2/3 cup)
  • 8 oz white button or baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 6 Barilla oven ready lasagna sheets
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes ( I had about 8 oz unused at the end)
  • 1/4 cup Italian red wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves or italian parsley chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic diced 
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • olive oil for pan
  • softened butter



Preheat oven to 375º F.
Butter baking dishes.

Ready sauce. Add crushed tomatoes, diced garlic, wine, rosemary, and salt to taste.  Let come to simmer, stirring occasionally.  Prepare vegetables. Slice zucchini longways in long thin uniform slices.  ( Tip:  I used my bread knife for this with wonderful results.) Salt zucchini, add olive oil to hot grill pan and sear zucchini strips slightly on both sides cooking until slightly tender. Remove and set aside.  
To sauté pan add olive oil and butter and sauté mushrooms until golden brown stirring occasionally.

Mix 1 cup ricotta, 1/4 milk, 2/3 cup chopped oil cured olives, fresh herbs, and freshly ground pepper.
To bottom of buttered baking dish add a little of the sauce just to leave a thin coat.
Assemble lasagnas:  Place one noodle in each pan,
Layer 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over each noodle, 
Followed by zucchini,

Mozzarella cheese, and sauce.

Layer another noodle, last of ricotta divided between two mini lasagnas,
followed by mushrooms divided evenly over each mini lasagna,

Mozzarella cheese, and sauce.
For the last layer: noodle, sauce, zucchini, and a generous topping of mozzarella cheese.
 Add pea sized pieces of softened butter in various places over the top.  
Place in oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden on the top. Enjoy with garlic bread, salad, and a glass of Italian red wine.  Eric Recommends: Villa Puccini 2008 Toscana
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