The above photo may very well be the best food shot I’ve ever taken. I have a few others that I think are really good, but this one takes the cake. And to think, it was totally unplanned.
I think I shared this in a previous post, but if I didn’t, I’ll share it again. The way these recipe posts work is like this: I usually begin cooking around 5pm and continue on until I’m finished. If things go well, the entire ordeal usually takes about an hour. Now, I know I’ve shared this part – by the time I’m done with the cooking, I’m usually so hungry that I’m not really focused on taking any photos. The photos I take during the process aren’t the challenge, it’s the ones at the end. Unfortunately, those “end” shots are the ones I need to choose the lead photo for the entire post from, so they’re important.
Anyway, last night’s recipe took a bit longer than many of the others I’ve taken part in. It required that I make some sauce and then do some baking. It took time. Since I had only eaten breakfast so far for the day (I do that a lot), I was practically starving. By the time I was finished cooking, which took me about 2 hours, the last thing I wanted to engage in was a photo shoot. But, me being me, I took a few photos and then went to hide at my computer to review them. This is the best one I got and it was the one I was going to use for this post:
Don’t get me wrong – I like the picture. It’s just that once I heard Laura snapping away in the other room, I headed back to see what was going on. She had taken the initiative to place a piece of the lasagna on the spatula for more of an “action” shot, which I liked a lot. I pretty much copied her and was able to walk away with the photo you see at the top of this post. Not bad, even if it was an afterthought.
This is the last recipe I’ll be posting for this round. When I go grocery shopping, I usually pick up enough food for three to four meals. I already posted the earlier ones, so this will be it for a few more days. That is, until I head back to the store. That’s fine, because this one is somewhat involved, but totally worth it. There’s no way you’ll be able to eat the entire lasagna in one night, so you’ll have plenty of leftovers. We probably have about two more night’s worth in the refrigerator.
What I really love about this vegetable lasagna is the garlic and red pepper flakes in the sauce. I also enjoy the texture and how substantial the veggies are. In the entire lasagna, I use one eggplant, two red peppers and three zucchini. That’s pretty good and quite filling.
I’ve been wanting to get back into larger dinners for some time. While I do love my sandwiches, I also truly enjoy many things that cook in a casserole dish. I think it’s the weight of them and the fact that I won’t be cooking for a few nights. I say that far too much – that I’m a lover of the leftover. I know.
Lastly, I’d like to thank Curtis Stone and his book What’s For Dinner? for the inspiration for this recipe. I did change things up quite a bit, but his original recipe was just as awesome. I’m a huge fan.
For the Sauce
2 Tablespoons Regular Olive Oil
1 Large Sweet Onion, Chopped
5 Teaspoons Garlic, Minced
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
2 Cups Dry White Wine
2 Large Cans (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
Ground Black Pepper
For the Vegetables
1 Medium Sized Eggplant, Trimmed and Sliced into 1/4 Inch Slices, Lengthwise
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Ground Black Pepper
3 Zucchinis, Trimmed and Sliced into 1/4 Inch Slices, Lengthwise
2 Red Bell Peppers, Trimmed, Cleaned and Cut into 16 Pieces Total, Lengthwise
For the Lasagna
12 Dried Oven-Ready Lasagna Noodles
1 Pound Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
Make the Sauce
Warm a large pot over medium heat. When it’s to temperature, add the 2 tablespoons of regular olive oil. Then, add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook, while stirring, for about 5 minutes to soften both ingredients. After that, add in the 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, the 1 teaspoon of dried oregano and the 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Cook and stir for another 2 minutes. Finally, add in the 2 cups of dry white wine and raise the heat to high. Let boil for about 10 minutes or until the wine has reduced by half.
When the above part of the sauce is ready, go ahead and add in the 2 cans of diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and let cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 50 minutes.
After the sauce has cooked, season with a pinch of salt and ground black pepper and add in the 1 tablespoon of dried basil. Also add the 1 cup of ricotta cheese. Stir and remove from heat. The sauce is finished.
Prepare the Vegetables
First, pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees. Then, in a small bowl, add the 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, the 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground black pepper. Whisk together well.
Place the eggplant, the zucchini and the red bell peppers on two large baking sheets. Then, brush both sides of all vegetables with the vinaigrette. When finished, place both baking sheets into the oven and let cook for 15-20 minutes or until the veggies are somewhat soft. The goal here is to infuse the vegetables with flavor while softening and dehydrating them a bit. When finished, remove the trays from the oven and store for later use.
Here is a photo of the eggplant slices after I removed them from the oven:
Assemble the Lasagna
First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, in a 13x9x2 casserole dish, add about 1 cup of tomato sauce. Spread it around.
After that, add 4 dry lasagna noodles. Break and arrange if necessary.
Next, add a layer that consists of 1/3 of the vegetables, another 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce and then a layer that consists of 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
Once those layers are down, add another 4 dry noodles, another 1/3 of the vegetables, another 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce and another 1/3 of shredded mozzarella cheese. After that, add the final 4 noodles and another 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce. Top things off with the remainder of the vegetables and the last of the tomato sauce over that. Keep the remaining mozzarella cheese for later.
After all the layering is finished, cover the casserole with aluminum foil and place it in the oven. Let cook for 45 minutes. Then, remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining shredded mozzarella cheese across the surface and place the casserole back in the oven. Let cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn off heat and you’re done. Cut into appropriate sized pieces and serve.
The Final Dish
I don’t think I need to state how much I enjoy dishes like this. Lasagna is very high on my list and is only topped by eggplant parmesan. Both are really great and this recipe stands up to my expectations and experience. If you decide to give this a try, please let me know what you think. Also, please feel free to give suggestions and alternative ingredients and methods in the comment area below. I’m all ears.
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