Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Noodle-less Lasagna, It’s a Thing, Really.

I think by typing that phrase alone I’ve irrecoverably damaged a little piece of my carb-loving-self. But it’s true, somehow I’ve managed to create something that satisfies even this die hard pasta junkie. It started as way to follow meatless Mondays. I mean, who doesn’t love veggie lasagna!? But then I realized my effort to eat healthier (i.e. meatless Mondays), were totally thwarted by the delicate sheets of pasta I was tucking between all those layers of healthy veggies. Argh. Alas, my noodle-less lasagna was born whereby my bounty from the Sunday farmers market would be roasted and gently layered between blankets of sweet and spicy tomato sauce, supported of course by creamy mozzarella (I haven’t gone completely mad people; it’s mostly healthy.) This is so utterly and completely satisfying I’ve made it every week for a month!

My noodle-less lasagna is built around two core ingredients: good tomato sauce, which I make myself but if you have a jarred sauce you love, go for it; and a diverse array of veggies, some of which must include veg that are long and can be but into lasagna noodle type shapes. I use eggplant and a mixture of zucchini and squash cut into wide thin strips as my base and top to keep the ‘lasagna’ together and it totally works. Throw in whatever you like in between! I’ve used mushrooms, roasted peppers, sautéed kale, corn, spinach, fennel…you name it. The trick is all the veggies have to be cooked before you assemble the lasagna. But trust me, one bite of tender roasted vegetables dancing in a tangy and tomato-y sauce with layers of melty cheese….seriously. It’s good. Really really good. And ridiculously easy to make.

Roasted Vegetable Noodle-less Lasagna
A Girl and Her Kitchen

3-4 medium eggplants, washed and cut into long, wide strips (1/4 inch each)
4-6 zucchini and/or squash, mix yellow and green, washed and cut into long, wide strips (1/4 inch each)
Other veggie options:
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced and sautéed
2 cups of kale or spinach, chopped and sautéed
3-4 bell peppers
1-2 bulbs of fennel, washed, cleaned and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
Roasted corn
2 tbsp herbs de provence (optional)
10oz mozzarella, grated
4oz parmesan or pecorino, grated
2 1/2 cups Tomato sauce (fresh (see recipe below) or jarred)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle olive oil across the bottom of two sheet pans. Place the eggplant, zuccini, squash, peppers (if using), fennel (if using) and any other veg you want to roast in a single layer on each sheet pan. Drizzle the top with more oil (light drizzle) and sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs de provence (if using). Roast for 15 minutes until veggies are tender (fennel may take another 5-10 minutes if using).

In a 9x13 baking dish (any size or shape oven-safe dish will do) spread 1/2c sauce over the bottom of the dish. Layer the eggplant (or zucchini/squash) in a single layer, filling in gaps as best as possible, over the entire bottom of the dish. Top with 1/3 of the parmensan/pecorino and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Follow with 1/2c sauce spread evenly over the top. The next layer of veggies can be a mixture. I tend to mix the small veggies like corn and mushrooms and kale or spinach into one layer. Top with 1/3 of the parmensan/pecorino and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Follow with 1/2c sauce spread evenly over the top. You can actually have as many layers as you like, you’ll just need more sauce and more cheese but when you are at your last layer, layer the zucchini/squash (or eggplant) in a single layer over the entire top and then with your hands press down slightly to make sure everything is in place. Top with 1/2c sauce spread evenly and then with 1/3 of the parmensan/pecorino and 1/3 of the mozzarella.

Cover the pan with tinfoil and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 5 minutes until dish is bubbling. Remove for the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Use a sharp knife to cut large squares out and enjoy!

Simple Tomato Sauce
A Girl and Her Kitchen

2 24oz cans of diced tomoatoes (the fire roasted variety are my personal favorite, can use whole peeled or crushed tomatoes if you prefer)
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4c good red wine
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 large dried bay leaf
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 hunk of parmesan or pecorino rind
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter (unsalted)
1/2c fresh basil leaves, torn

In a large heavy bottom pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, pinch of salt and pepper and a heavy pinch of sugar and stir to combine. Let the onions cook for 6-8 minutes until starting to turn a touch golden. Add in garlic, 1 tbsp of tomato paste and dried herbs, mix well. Pour in 1/4c red wine and stir; let simmer 2-3 minutes. Now add the cheese rind and tomatoes and mix well. Bring to a simmer and let cook for an hour (but 2 hours is better). When done cooking, tear fresh basil leaves into piece and stir into sauce along with 1 tbsp of butter. Serve or save in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for several months.

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