For the longest time I didn’t care too much for Italian food. My exposure to the dishes consisted mainly of plain ole spaghetti with jarred sauce (no offense, Mom) or heavy dishes from the likes of Olive Garden. I always felt either unsatisfied or sick after eating most Italian food. It never had that comforting feeling so many people equate with pasta or a hearty chicken parmesan.
I just had to marry an Italian.
I quickly learned the importance of good Italian food to Peter and his family. Christmas dinner? Forget the ham and casseroles – it’s all about the ravioli, meatballs, and cannoli. Birthday gatherings? There will be cake, but only after a nice serving of mom’s spinach alfredo.
Pasta night regularly became part of our rotation. I found that if the pasta included fresh veggies and perfectly cooked whole wheat noodles, I liked it a lot more. Still give me Mexican over Italian any day, but at least I gained a new appreciation and could accommodate my man’s taste.
When meal planning for last week I got struck with a sudden dose of inspiration. I wanted to make a homemade lasagna.
For some many of you that is probably not a big deal at all. For me, it meant giving Peter a little piece of his family tradition and one of his favorite meals…not from the freezer aisle and without making him do all the cooking.
It did take more effort in the kitchen than my normal cooking, but the effort melted into oblivion after my first bite. It almost makes me wonder if I should spend more time in the kitchen. But let’s not go too crazy now.
Homemade Vegetable Lasagna
Active Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Servings: 6 – 8 servings depending on size
- 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1 zucchini
- 1 squash
- 1/2 large white onion
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- I jar tomato sauce
- 1 (15 oz) container part-skim ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 (8 oz) bag part-skim shredded mozzarella
Chop all of your vegetables – eggplant, squash, zucchini, onion, and mushrooms - into even, small 1/2” pieces.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the whole-wheat lasagna noodles and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside when finished.
While the lasagna noodles cook, sauté the vegetables in a large pan with the tablespoon of olive oil for 10 minutes. Once softened, add 1/2 the jar of tomato sauce. Let the vegetable and sauce mixture simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes.
As the vegetable mixture simmers, add the ricotta cheese, eggs, garlic, oregano, and onion powder in a bowl. Stir until evenly combined.
Once all components of the lasagna – noodles, vegetable mixture, ricotta mixture, mozzarella cheese shreds, remainder of tomato sauce – are ready, lay them out to assemble the lasagna. Preheat the oven to 350 at this time.
Pour a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Add four lasagna noodles. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Next, sprinkle 1/3 of the bag of mozzarrella cheese over the ricotta mixture. Pour half of the vegetable mixture over the cheese.
Repeat layers a second time - four lasagna noodles, the remaining half of the ricotta mixture, another 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese, and the remaining half of the vegetables.
Finally finish with one final layer of four lasagna noodles. Then, evenly spread the leftover tomato sauce over the top layer of noodles and top with the last 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the oven, until the cheese bubbles and begins to brown.
Slice. Serve. And feel like an official Italian. Well…minus the jarred sauce. I had to draw the line somewhere.
- What is a dish that intimidates you to make?
- Do you have any strong cultural food ties in your family?