Spinach lasagna

Spinach lasagna

Little to nothing says comfort food like a lasagna. Mobbing the throne of versatility, lasagna is lovely when prepared for 20, or just for one; lasagna almost always tastes better the second day over the first.

Partial to meatless lasagnas far before becoming a vegetarian, I always wanted to learn how to whip one up, but was readily intimidated that it was too hard. Instead of splurging on a few ingredients and giving lasagna from scratch a whirl, I adamantly kept a close eye on the frozen aisle for sales on Michael Angelo’s vegetable lasagna. When prices dipped beneath $5 a box, I was frequently found playing my own version of Tetris with those green boxes in my grocery basket!

Leave it to good ol’ Mark Bittman to break me of my preservative-loving ways and introduce a straightforward recipe for vegetable lasagna. Although I grabbed the recipe (that’s after the jump) from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Bittman also blogged a very similar recipe (only difference is use of mozzerella) over on Bitten in late February.

Spinach lasagna
Spinach Lasagna
Yields 3-4 servings

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup trimmed and sliced mushrooms (Ashley’s note: I used crimini mushrooms)
1 24-32 oz can tomatoes, drained and chopped (Ashley’s note: I used San Marzano canned tomatoes, 28 oz)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Dried/freshly chopped basil

6 dried or fresh lasagna noodles (Ashley’s note: I used Trader Joe’s lasagna no boil noodles, but boiled them anyways)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooked spinach, squeezed dry and chopped, or any other chopped vegetable
1 1/2 cups ricotta, plus more as needed
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. If you’re using dried pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. If you’re using fresh pasta sheets, cut them into long wide noodles approximately 3 inches by 13 inches, or a size that will fit into your lasagna dish. Cook the noodles (6 at a time for dried noodles) until they are tender but still underdone (they will finish cooking as the lasagna bakes); fresh pasta will take only a minute. Drain and then lay the noodles flat on a towel so they won’t stick.

2. Put the olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mushrooms and onion to cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the the tomatoes, along with salt and pepper — I was pretty liberal.

3. With the tomato sauce, let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break up and the mixture comes together and thickens, 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as it cooks.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a rectangular baking dish (Ashley’s note: I used a 1 lb glass bread pan) with the olive oil, add a large dollop of tomato sauce and spread it around. Put a layer of noodles (use four) in the dish, trimming any overhanging edges; top with a layer of tomato sauce, one-third of the spinach, and one-fourth of the ricotta (use your fingers to spread it evenly) and the Parmesan. Sprinkle some salt and pepper between the layers of tomato sauce and spinach if desired.

4. Repeat the layers twice, and top with the remaining noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta and Parmesan; the top should be covered with cheese; add more ricotta and Parmesan as needed. (The lasagna may be made ahead to this point, wrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to a day or frozen. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

5. Bake until the lasagna is bubbling and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest a few minutes before serving, or cool completely, cover well, and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze.

Overall, I like the simplicity of this recipe; however, next time I make this lasagna then I’ll probably experiment with adding artichoke hearts, zucchini and/or red onion.