When I think “vegetable lasagna”, I imagine a rich, hearty noodle dish bursting with the flavor of fresh vegetables. When I search for recipes for “vegetable lasagna”, I most often find thin, watery-sounding meals that substitute thin layers of squash for noodles and skimp out on the chunky fillings that make lasagna such a stand-out meal.
For our Easter celebration this year, I created a mash-up of lasagna and pasta primavera that was a beautiful, fresh, spring-flavor-filled dish, and it works equally as well for our summer CSA veggies.
Since Clay and I cook for only two, I generally make lasagna in a small loaf pan; it provides 6 average-sized portions, so there’s plenty for a second helping, or to share with friends, or to pack for work-day lunches.
Recipe for Vegetable Lasagna
Start with the Bechamel sauce.
- 3 TBSP butter
- 3 TBSP flour
- 2 cups Whole Milk (the more flavorful your milk, the more flavorful your sauce. This is a dish where organic milk from grass-fed cows really shines)
- Salt, Pepper, and Nutmeg – to taste
Melt and brown the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, until it is aromatic and a rich golden brown color. Whisk in the flour to make a roux; then continue cooking for three to four minutes until the roux takes on additional color. Whisk continuously while slowly streaming in the milk, to avoid lumps.
Turn the heat to medium-low and continue cooking while stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens. Once thickened, season to taste with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg, then pour into a small glass container and set aside.
Once the sauce is made, prepare your other ingredients.
- Half of a package of lasagna noodles, prepared according to package instructions (or fresh, if you’re fancy like that!)
- One-and-a-half cups of fresh mozzarella cheese, diced and divided into three equal portions
- One cup of freshly grated pecorino-romano cheese, divided into three equal portions
- One-and-a-half cups of pesto, divided into three equal portions
This week we used two parts roasted tomato and one part traditional basil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- An 8-ounce bunch of leafy greens (think chard, kale, or spinach), torn into bite-sized pieces, washed, blanched, and drained
This week we used kale.
- Approximately one-and-a-half cups of vegetables (think artichoke, asparagus, beets, green or wax beans, snap or snow peas, or summer squashes), diced and well seasoned with salt and pepper
This week we used peas in their pods and zucchini.
- Approximately half of one cup of alliums (think beyond onions to leeks, scallions, chives, or garlic), chopped very finely
This week we used green onions, scallions, and garlic scapes.
Once your ingredients are assembled, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, grab a loaf pan, and begin assembly.
- Spread a spoonful of bechamel sauce into the bottom of the pan.
- Arrange the first layer of noodles over the bechamel, with the edges overlapping slightly. Spread the noodles with one-third of the pesto then one-third of the mozzarella, then a drizzle of bechamel.
- Arrange a second layer of noodles over the first, and top them with your greens. Don’t be afraid to really pack the greens into your pan, since they will cook down significantly in the oven. Top with one-third of the pecorino-romano cheese and a generous spoonful of bechamel.
- Arrange a third layer of noodles, spread with a second third of pesto and a second third of mozzarella. Scatter your alliums here, and then add a drizzle of bechamel over the top.
- Arrange a fourth layer of noodles, spread with the last third of pesto. Scatter your chopped vegetables over the pesto with the second third of pecorino-romano, then drizzle with bechamel.
- Arrange your fifth and final layer of noodles, and spread the remaining bechamel sauce over the top. Scatter your remaining cheeses over the top, and grind fresh black pepper generously over the whole.
Cover your pan with aluminum foil, and place on a tray in the center of the oven; bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the lasagna is browned and bubbling; remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
This dish is absolutely satisfying as a one-dish meal, though at Easter we served it alongside kefta and pickled root vegetables. If you make it, I’d love to know what vegetables you choose, and how you present it!