Friday, July 22, 2011
I don't quite remember when my quest to make a good veggie-friendly lasagna began. Maybe 6 or 7 years ago.. Since then, I've made this dish so many times that its going to be pretty hard to write up a recipe for this but I will try my best. Some of the tips I post, I've learnt along the way either from other lasagna recipes or as feedback from my subjects. ;-)
I like to think that I can cook somewhat good and that includes non Indian dishes.. I never quite got into complex, traditional Indian cooking although that is very slowly changing... I still enjoy trying out recipes from various cuisines. When I lived at home with my parents the lasagna was one dish I had nailed and made for them on a somewhat regular basis. So much so that if we had guests or family visiting from out of town and I wanted to give Mom a break from the kitchen, this was my signature dish. Funny how something that has so many ingredients became a "go-to"dish...
Back in Calgary, my parents host international musicians visiting from India every once in a while. One such occasion, we were honored and thrilled to have world famous Carnatic violinists- jovial and enthusiastic Vittal Ramamurthy and lovely and hilarious Padma Shankar. My sister is also a violinist and these artists are two of her teachers and mentors and they were to all perform in a concert together. That alone deserves a post on a music blog because when these 3 violinists get together with some percussion, the music is sensational. Anyhow, one evening after a long day of practice and workshops, I decided to surprise these two with my cooking and made the lasagna and within a couple of bites, got proclaimed by Padma as the Lasagna Queen. And she still calls me that to-date. I'm proud of that fact and I try to defend that title the best I can. (Although more recently she got a taste of my nutella cookies and sort of changed my title.. )
The recipe and ingredients are fairly flexible. If you don't have a particular vegetable you can leave it out or substitute with something else.
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2-3 carrots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 small zuchini, chopped
- 4-5 mushrooms, chopped
- 1 small tub of ricotta cheese
- 1 pack frozen spinach (thawed) or 2 bunches of fresh spinach
- Barilla No boil lasagna sheets
- Jarred pasta sauce
- 2 cups grated mozzarella/parmesan mixture.
1. Mixed veggie filling: Sautee all the veggies in some olive oil until they are soft and tender. Brown the mushrooms first, then add carrots, garlic and finally add zuchini and peppers. When the veggies are al dente, mix with your favourite pasta sauce and add dried herbs like basil or oregano if you like.
2. Ricotta-spinach filling: Squeeze water out of frozen spinach that's been thawed or cooked fresh spinach and mix with the tub of ricotta. Add salt and pepper and/or any other seasoning like fresh herbs.
You don't want the excess water from the cooked spinach as it will end up in a soggy mess. I'm speaking from experience :-(
3. Spread a liberal layer of pasta sauce at the bottom of 13x9 baking dish and layer the no boil sheets.
4. Evenly spread the ricotta-spinach mixture and add another layer of the pasta sheets.
5. Next, layer the veggie mixture and layer on the pasta.
6. Finally add some more pasta sauce and pile on the mozzarella/parmesan cheese mixture.
7. Bake at 350 F covered with foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until the top layer is golden brown.
8. Serve right out of the oven!