For you gluten-free and/or dairy-free types, check out my Super-Secret Gluten-Free Vegan Lasagna!
I always loved my mom’s lasagna when I was a kid. Then I grew up and became vegetarian and had to modify the recipe so it didn’t include beef. Then I started eating meat again, but by that time, I loved my lasagna so much without meat, I never bothered to add it back. Plus, with darned near four pounds of cheese, who needs meat?
Then I stopped being able to tolerate gluten and dairy. I’ve not eaten this lasagna in more than three years. I’ve only recently started making it for my family again. I would make it to drop off to friends, but I didn’t want the yummy smell of bubbling cheese, slightly browned on the edges, to tempt me into eating something that would make me feel awful for days.
This story has a happy ending, though, which I will reveal in Monday’s post.
For those of you who can eat gluten and dairy without pain, this one’s for you. For those who can’t, patience, my friends. Monday’s post will bring you wonderful news!
Because of its awesomeness, I’ve been keeping this recipe a secret thinking that sharing it would cause everyone to make lasagna as awesome as mine and then mine wouldn’t be special anymore. But then I realized that not only is it selfish to deny people kick-A lasagna simply because they don’t live near enough for me to make them one, but that even with a “recipe,” this lasagna is likely not reproducible exactly anyway. I’ve done my best to write down just how I make it, but really, I just toss things in without measuring. Maybe one day I’ll post a video of myself cooking lasagna, and you can copy my technique precisely, down to the Skip James songs I sing while cooking (tonight it was “Be Ready When He Comes,” because I was thinking that I wanted to make sure the lasagna was ready when our guests arrived). Until I get the video made and get over my phobia of posting images of myself online, hopefully this recipe gets you close-to-awesome lasagna.
Oh, and you could certainly use a meat sauce with this, if you’re so inclined. I just, as I’ve mentioned, don’t see much need for it.
CJ’s Kick-Butt Vegetarian Lasagna
1-2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 15-oz cans of tomato sauce OR 1 jar spaghetti sauce (any variety; I usually use 365 or Muir Glen marinara).
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
generous amounts dried oregano, rosemary, basil, garlic powder, dill, crushed red pepper (I use a LOT…like ~2 T of each (except the red pepper…that’s more like 1 teaspoon). If you use jar sauce, you likely won’t need this much. Adjust to your taste. I also grind the dried rosemary leaves with a mortar and pestle so they don’t poke me in the gums. If I use fresh garlic, I press about 1 bulb (yes, bulb) into the sauce.)
1 lb lasagna noodles (uncooked)
1 lb ricotta cheese (lowfat is okay)
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, washed
1 bunch fresh spinach leaves, washed
1 12-oz package provolone slices, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch squares
1 pound shredded mozzarella
1 pound parmesan, shredded
Heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add chopped onions and saute for a few minutes until translucent. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Bring nearly to a boil then simmer gently for, I don’t know, 30-60 minutes? Longer if you’ve got the time. Add up to 1 cup additional water during simmering. It’s OK if the sauce is a little thin because the lasagna noodles will soak up some of the liquid.
Preheat oven to 375. Unless you like cleaning your oven, you may want to place a sheet of aluminum foil or a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any spills while the lasagna is cooking. While the sauce simmers, gather the basil and spinach leaves together and slice into thin ribbons. Make sure the spinach is very well rinsed before slicing. There is nothing worse than gritty lasagna.
Combine the basil, spinach, and ricotta in a large bowl, and mix well. The ricotta will need a fair amount of working in to incorporate it evenly through the greens.
Spread a layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan (a relatively thin layer…this is just to keep the noodles from sticking to the bottom). Place a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, leaving a little space between the noodles to allow for expansion. Break a noodle or two if necessary to fill space at the end of the pan.
Spoon 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over noodles and spread as best you can. Cover with a layer of about 1/3 of the mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan.
Add another layer of noodles as before and cover liberally with sauce. Add the rest of the ricotta mixture and another 1/3 of the cheese. Top with another layer of noodles, a final layer of sauce, then the remaining cheeses. I like ending with parmesan because I like the way the shreds look, but that’s a matter of personal taste. Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes, or until sauce at sides of pan is bubbly and cheese on top is browned to your taste. (If you don’t like browned cheese, start checking it around the 40-minute mark.)