I didn't grow up eating lasagna. I first heard of this dish while reading a comic book---although Jim Davis always spelled Garfield and Odie's favorite dish "lasagne." I remember asking my mom what it was and she said it was a layered pasta casserole with cheese.
I ate my first plate of lasagna when I was 12 or so at a friend's house during a sleepover. It was from Stauffer's. It was delicious, and I was hooked.
It's really not hard to make a good lasagna. I make it quite a bit, either in the crock or out. I like that I can shove extra veggies in without too much notice, and I like that I can use the odds and ends of bags of pasta---if I've only got a few traditional lasagna noodles, no problem---I throw in a layer of penne! If I've got the bits of a few different kinds of cheeses, who cares? I've even used the individually packaged string cheeses. It's all good.
There are very few vegetarian lasagnas worth eating. I've probably offended a bunch of people.
I'm sorry. But I stand by this claim: I haven't found a vegetarian lasagna (even in restaurants) where I haven't walked away wishing for meat and more flavor.
but I've found the secret to worthwhile vegetarian lasagna: Throw in pesto!
1 (26-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
1 (10-ounce) box lasagna noodles (I like tinkyada brown rice)
1 (11-ounce) container pesto (or by all means, make your own!)
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 (12-ounce) bag baby spinach
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/4 cup water
Use a 4 quart slow cooker. Put a spoonful of pasta sauce (about 1/4 cup) into the bottom of your cooker and swirl it around. Add a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (you're going to have to break them to make a layer). Smear ricotta cheese and pesto onto the noodles. Add a handful or two of baby spinach, and top with a layer of Parmesan and slice mozzarella cheeses. Repeat layers until you've run out of ingredients. The spinach is fluffy, so you're going to have to squish it down to make it all fit.
Before closing the pot, put 1/4 cup of water into the empty pasta sauce jar and close and shake. Pour this saucy water over the top of everything.
Now cover up and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for about 3 to 4. You'll know it's done when the top layer begins to brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. It will also pull a bit away from the sides. Taste-test a noodle to check texture.
Uncover, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
This recipe was a complete surprise. I was on the phone with my friend Danielle, and Adam walked in the door with 2 packages of pesto (I had asked him to pick up one, and it was buy 1 get 1 free). Instead of being a gracious wife, I began to whine about having too much pesto in the house to Danielle, and she told me to put it in lasagna.
She was right. I shouldn't have complained, life is good, lasagna rocks, it's fun to get the kids to eat spinach without them realizing it, and there are DEFINITELY worse things in the world than extra pesto.
Head held in shame.
more vegetarian main dish options:
end of summer harvest soup
sweet potato chili
jamaican pumpkin soup
vegetarian no noodle lasagna