At the beginning of December I took the long, 9 hour+ flight home from London, England to the West Coast of British Columbia. I’d been working on the North Norfolk coast for 6 months at an outdoor education centre. The job was a lot of fun, but living in staff accommodation and using a shared kitchen had me longing for home. Since being back I’ve been cooking meals nearly everyday, making old favourites like this veggie lasagna and taking on new challenges, including successfully making potato gnocchi (a huge personal accomplishment after failing at it before).
It also makes a difference to have people to cook for and, perhaps just as important, to eat and drink wine with. My lovely parents share my passion for yummy foods, so it’s always nice to bounce ideas off of them and get their feedback on dishes. The warming veggie lasagna was a huge hit!
I will admit, the recipe has a lot of steps, but it comes together relatively quickly if you get a bit of help chopping up the veggies. It has a rich flavour with the meaty mushrooms adding texture. It’s perfect for a winter evening, and leftovers freeze well or can be reheated the next day. Serve with a green salad for a full meal.
Warming Veggie Lasagna
A gourmet vegetarian lasagna with mushrooms, and a thick ricotta/spinach layer. Ideal for those long, chilly winter evenings.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 3 medium carrots diced
- 4 cloves garlice minced
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp dried basil
- 1/8 tsp dried chili flakes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 800 ml can chopped tomatoes unsalted
- 1 394 ml can purred tomatoes or tomato sauce unsalted
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- ground black pepper to taste
Ricotta and Spinach Layer
- 1 bag fresh spinach leaves (or subsitute frozen spinach)
- 1 400g container ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- pinch fresh-grated nutmeg
- salt and pepper to tase
- 3 cups mushrooms sliced
- 1 medium zucchini bite-size chunks
- 1 orange or red pepper diced
- 1 green pepper diced
- 3 9 x 13" fresh lasagna noodle sheets
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Heat the oil in a large sauce-pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent.
Dice the carrots meanwhile and add to the pot, allowing to cook for a few minutes.
Add minced garlic and spices, stirring until fragrant.
Incorporate the tomato paste, waiting a minute or two to add the chopped and purred tomatoes.
Finally, add the salt, pepper, sugar and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and put a lid over the pot. Allow sauce to simmer while preparing the other ingredients. Give it a taste while simmering, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Ricotta and Spinach Layer
Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium heat. Put the whole bag of spinach and a splash of water in the wok with a lid over top to wilt.
Stir every few minutes until mostly all leaves are wilted. Put in a separate bowl to cool down.
Whisk egg in a mixing bowl with the ricotta cheese. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. If you can’t have freshly grated nutmeg, I would miss it altogether – the jarred spice can have an overpowering flavour.
When spinach is at about room temperature, mix it into the ricotta.
Rinse out wok (or large frying pan) and return to medium-high heat. Dry-fry the mushrooms until tender, but not cooked through. Scoop them into a bowl.
Rinse out the wok, then add oil and zucchini, frying until just starting to cook. Add the peppers and fry for another minute. Take wok off heat and add the mushrooms back in.
Preheat oven to 350°F convection bake or 375°F normal bake.
Spoon 1/3 of the sauce into 9x13 inch pan, layering roughly 1/3 of the veggies over top. Place down your first lasagna sheet.
Again layer 1/3 of the sauce and most of your veggies (leave maybe ¼ for the top layer). Place down your second lasagna sheet.
Spread on the ricotta and spinach mixture. Place down the third and final lasagna sheet.
Spread the last bit of sauce on top with the rest of the veggies (however, you might need to keep some aside if it seems to be getting too watery). Sprinkle mozzarella cheese evenly over the lasagna.
Cover the top of the baking dish loosely with tin foil and put in the preheated oven for 45 minutes (it's a good idea to put a cookie sheet underneath to catch any spill over). Take tin foil off and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Lasagna is down when when the edges are bubbly and cheese is a bit browned.
Let the lasagna cool down and set for about 15 minutes before cutting and serving up. Your hard work will all be worth it when you taste this beauty!