It all started with the lasagna dinner Bambi and Alex prepared for us. Max and Bambi are taking Culinary Arts, a program already earning awards for their school, and we are the lucky beneficiaries of their sweet skills. The vegetarian dish was such a huge hit with everyone, we planted carrots, basil, squash, and zucchini for future lasagnas! Even the chickens pitched in, providing fresh eggs for our feast.
I just, barely, gave the squash and zucchini enough growing time before attempting to make my first ever lasagna. We gave Alex a mandolin slicer for Christmas... Oh my gosh is that ever a sweet tool! I whizzed through the slicing part of the recipe, with darling little squash rounds all ready for sautéing. (Seriously handy device. Not a paid endorsement, and pretty sure we found ours on sale.) But to tell the truth, the rest of the adventure was a little more daunting, it being new territory for me. A few times, like when layering the pasta, I called Alex to my side, and anxiously asked, "Did yours look like this??" And no! No, theirs did not look like mine, and he was gentle and reassuring, but somehow I was managing to take the same recipe they used and make something new of it. For instance: Alex asked, a bit panicked, "You didn't boil the pasta? And my heart did the tarantella! Because I hadn't boiled the pasta, and there it was, hard as uncooked pasta, and already covered in ricotta with basil! But guess what... Trader Joe's brand lasagna doesn't need to be boiled, it cooks in the dish. Sigh!
Even though I felt kerfuffled a few times, after a bit, I resigned myself to the fact that it would be close to impossible to ruin a dish that is layers of sautéed veggies with cheese, cheese, pasta, sauce, and cheese! Come on! This had to be fool proof, right? I covered it in foil, and put it in the fridge to be baked the next day when we got to Pasadena. Because, yes... not only was I making this as a Mother's Day gift for my mom, grandmother and aunts, I was daring to make them guinea pigs to my experiment! Risky, risky business!
We grew a lasagna! It worked! You really can layer veggies, pasta, cheese, cheese, sauce, and cheese, and bake it! It was delicious and bubbly, and the corners were crunchy, which is highly desirable in my estimation. What a relief! We had it in my aunt's oven, 400 degrees fahrenheit, and I was timing it, but then I was also guessing since I had made it about 3X bigger than the recipe was written for. My aunt, sweetly, gently asked, "Do you want to check it?" And I replied, "Ah, that's alright. I checked it five minutes ago. It needs more time." I was sounding so confident. But then Becky set me straight, "Natalie, uh, I think you really want to check it, now!" It was about to erupt, a Lasagna Mount Vesuvius!
Do you want the recipe? Because, I have an actual recipe! And if you've made lasagna before, then you'll probably wonder what my kerfuffle was all about... it's a pretty straight forward recipe, and I am looking forward to making it again.
• Two 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
• 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, plus more for seasoning
• One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, excess moisture squeezed out
• 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
• 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan
• 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 yellow onion, diced
• 3/4 cup shredded carrot
• 1 yellow squash, diced
• 1 zucchini, diced
• 6 cups store-bought or homemademarinara sauce
• 12 (no-boil!) lasagna noodles (8 ounces)
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
• In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, salt and pepper. Add the spinach and stir to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine the mozzarella, Parmesan and basil.
• Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the garlic and onions and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Add the carrots, yellow squash and zucchini, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and drain off any excess liquid.
• Spread a third of the marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
Arrange a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Spread a third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles,
followed by a third of the cooked vegetables.
Sprinkle with a third of the shredded cheese mixture.
Repeat to make two more layers, ending with the shredded cheese mixture on top.
Cover the top of the dish with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is golden brown, about 15 minutes more.
Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.