Well, we have arrived at the sweet spot. These few early weeks of September: it’s getting cooler so fall crops are appearing, but it’s still warm enough that the summer goodies haven’t completely disappeared. It’s the epitome of produce. There are too many vegetables to choose from! Raspberries are still available! There are apples!
What’s to be done with an excessive farmers’ market hall and a change in season? Dinner parties. That’s what.
Lasagna is the perfect food for a crowd, and with this veggie version you don’t even miss the meat. As with all things, I looked to Ina Garten for guidance on this one. She has a wonderful roasted vegetable lasagna recipe in her Make it Ahead cookbook, which I followed closely (because I trust her implicitly) but I also made some tweaks to suit my tastes and clean out my fridge.
Roasting the vegetables takes out some of their water, so as to avoid a soggy bottomed lasagna. I mean, could anything be worse than that?
So invite your friends over and celebrate summer. Or fall. Whatever your preference.
roasted vegetable lasagna
(adapted from the incomparable Ina Garten)
3 small to medium sized zucchini (some green and some yellow makes for a real pretty lasagna)
1 large eggplant
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 pound button mushrooms
1 cup ricotta cheese1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1 jar preferred tomato sauce (you could of course make your own, try this one)
1 package dry lasagna noodles
1. Slice the zucchini and eggplant lengthwise to 1/4 inch thickness. Arrange on parchment paper covered cookie sheets, brush liberally with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast for 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Set aside.
2. Slice the mushrooms thin and sauteé over medium-high heat until just cooked. Set aside. Wipe out the pan and cook down the fresh spinach over medium heat until it just begins to stick to the pan. Remove from heat and run with cold water. Squeeze the spinach (in your hands or with a cheese cloth) to remove as much liquid as humanly possible, then chop it up. Let cool.
3. Mix together cooled spinach with ricotta until combined.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water well (like, more than you think is appropriate). Cook the pasta for 7-8 minutes. It should still be quite al dente, just cooked. Strain it and run it under cold water.
5. AASSSSEMMBLLEEEEEE. In a 13 x 9 inch pan, start with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Add base noodle layer. Dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture evenly (it will spread out in the cooking), sprinkle evenly 1/3 of the mushrooms, then do a layer of the roasted squash and eggplant (some of each), cover with sauce, and sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella over it. Then start again with noodles and build up until you’ve used all the goods. The top layer should be pasta, spread with a tiny bit of sauce and sprinkled with some saved mozzarella.
6. Bake tented with tinfoil (you don’t want all that gooey top cheese stuck to the tin foil so make sure they aren’t touching!) for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then remove the foil and cook final 10 minutes to let the cheese get good and melty. When you see sauce bubbling up the side of the pan, you’ve nailed it.