Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lasagna - a Different Version

Dear Folks,

A note about the 'thrillin' grillin' substitute day yesterday at Boyce Thompson Arboretum (due to the Herb Festival being rained and colded out Saturday).  If you didn't make it out folks, the turkey turned out awesome!  I will post the recipes here in the next day or so.

. . .

I posted recipes for making ricotta and a unique reduction cheese several days ago, with the note that I made the ricotta for the vegetable lasagna I was making.  Here is the lasagna and what I did to make it.  Deane declared it has to be on the regular menu!  He also observed that without actually intending to, the lasagna turned out gluten-free!  Also low-carb.

First, why vegetables?  I saw a reference to making a garden fresh lasagna replacing the noodles with vegetables like zucchini and we had - among other ingredients fresh asparagus from the garden. I had some russet potatoes, and picked up some zucchini from the store.  I had fresh basil from the garden, "sauce tomatoes" from the farmers market, my fresh ricotta and my friend Kathy's mozzarella and I was almost set.

I spent a lot of time preparing the ingredients for this recipe, but you certainly do not have to.  Pick up really quality ingredients at the farmers market or favorite store.  In the future I'm going to can my sauce (we keep running out freezer space), so I have it ready to make this any time I want.

FYI - I did not have nearly enough cheese because I got overly generous with the veggies, but I made due.

For the sauce I adapted this sauce several years ago when I read about Marcella Hazan's "crasy sauce" famous for having only 3 ingredients.  (Her recipe called for canned tomatoes removing the onion from the sauce at the end.)


6 pounds of tomatoes (mix and match for different flavors - cut into quarters or half
1 stick of butter
1 onion, diced
Optional: 1 whole sprig of oregano; slivered basil added at the end.

Melt the butter in a good size sauce pan, add the onion, stir and add all the tomatoes and juice.  Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.  You will know when it is done.  It reduces down to a thick sauce. That's it the most incredible sauce you will ever taste.  This time I left my sauce whole, you can also puree at the end with an immersion blender.

If you do not want to add meat, double the cheese.  OR, you can add grilled or ungrilled tofu in place of the meat.

1 pound ground turkey
1 pound of natural milk Italian sausage meat

Mix the two meats together and brown in a large frying pan.  Use a potato masher to keep them broken up.  Set aside when browned.

Potatoes (2 good size)
Zucchini (3 good size)
Asparagus (8-10 - depending on the width/length of your pan you want enough for a row)

Cut potatoes into long planks (I leave the skins on) about a half inch thick.  Cut zucchini into similar width planks (all length size). Trim hard ends off the asparagus by bending and snapping at the 'tender' point - save the hard ends for flavoring soups and broths.


Ricotta - I had about 1 cup - I would double that
Mozzarella - I had about 2 cups shredded - I would add at least another 50%.

READY to assemble.
Have all ingredients ready:  Sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, meat, vegetables, fresh basil (optional).

You are going to start and end with sauce, so make sure you divide it accordingly for 3 layers.

Place a thin layer on the bottom, layer the potatoes (I do not show that layer in the picture above, just imagine the large lasagna noodles and you will get the idea.).  Place a layer of meat, top with ricotta, fresh basil slivers (put the basil on the meat, ricotta, or on the sauce - does not really matter), sauce and mozzarella.  You have the first of three layers.  Next arrange the asparagus in the opposite position (note picture), add layer of meat, top with ricotta, fresh basil, sauce and end with mozzarella.  Repeat with the last layer of zucchini arranged end to end as pictured, layer meat, basil, ricotta and end with sauce and mozzarella.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 60 minutes.  The timing will depend on whether the sauce and meat were hot when you assembled the lasagna.  If cold it will take longer.  If you want to shorten the time, you can cook the potatoes in the microwave for about 4 minutes (don't forget to pierce the skin) and blanch the zucchini and asparagus for 2 minutes in boiling water.  Then all the oven is doing is heating the sauce and melting the cheese.  I left mine in for 45 minutes - I could have taken it out about 5 - 10 minutes sooner.

This recipe can be a lot of work, so make a big batch because not only does it keep well, but it actually gets better tasting in the frig over the next 2 or so days -- the initial feast is delicious!

Because I did not puree my sauce there was 'juice' a factor I did not mind, but you may wish a very thick sauce to proceed accordingly.  We started calling it a "lasagna stew" - worked for us :-)

What vegetables do you have in the garden to make a vegetable lasagna?  Think outside the noodle!

P.S. There is no reason not to combine noodles and vegetables.  Lasagna is one of those recipes where you can be as creative as you want (purists please allow creativity in the kitchen - new / young cooks need all the encouragement they can get :-)

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

No comments: