lasagna1Lasagna is one of my favorite foods. I think, to anyone who has eaten lasagna, it’s pretty obvious why. Growing up vegetarian, my family used lasagna as our go-to dish to take to potlucks, Thanksgiving, or really any special occasion. Even though I do eat meat now, meat lasagna has never held any appeal for me. I want spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant – not just some bolognese with pasta and cheese. You could easily add meat to this sauce, but try it once without. I promise it’s just as good!

I always use homemade red sauce for my lasagna – somehow bechamel seems wrong, and bottled sauce just won’t cut it. Recipe after the jump (well, an approximation of it – I adjust it all the time depending on my mood, with different veggies and herbs) for the sauce, and then the layers, which you can feel free to get creative with. That’s what makes lasagna so much fun!

The Sauce:

1 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes

1/2 8-oz. can tomato paste

1 small yellow or white onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

3/4 c. diced cremini mushrooms

1/4 t. chopped rosemary

1 – 2 bay leaves

1/4 t. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 c. red wine

Saute the onion and garlic on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, then add peppers and mushrooms and saute until all vegetables are softened, about 5 – 10 more minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for a few minutes, letting the paste brown a little to develop flavor. Add the crushed tomatoes, rosemary and wine, and bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the bay leaves and red pepper flakes and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle simmer with the lid on, stirring occasionally so the sauce doesn’t burn. You can add any other herbs you like that you have on hand – thyme or sage are particularly good, or of course basil if it’s in season. No dried basil allowed!

For assembling the lasagna:

Lasagna noodles (approx. 9 for a 13 x 9 pan) cooked until al dente

15 oz. container of fresh Ricotta

2 cups shredded Mozzarella

3/4 cup Parmeggiano Regiano (this time I used pre-shredded Parmeggiano, Asiago and Fontina from Whole Foods. Yum!)

1 package frozen spinach, thawed & drained or 1 large bag or bunch of fresh spinach, wilted and squeezed dry

1 small eggplant, cut into 1/4″ slices, grilled or baked

13 x 9 or 9 x 9 pan, depending on how hungry you are!

Preheat the oven to 375.

Ladle some sauce into the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of noodles in the bottom of the pan – 3 across. They may overlap slightly. Add another thin layer of sauce. Dot 1/2 of the ricotta evenly across the surface. Add 1/2 of the spinach, then 1/3 of the parmeggiano. Layer on 1/2 of your eggplant slices and then add 1/3 of the mozzarella. Begin again from pasta layer. Once 2 full layers are complete, add one final pasta layer topped with one final sauce layer and the remaining mozzarella and parmeggiano. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes or until heated through and bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes and then enjoy!