Veggie Lasagna

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I am in a constant quest to get more veggies into my family and am always trying to figure out creative, yummy ways to do so.  This veggie lasagna balances it all — sheets of fresh, tender pasta layered with a “ragu” of veggies, tofu, and homemade tomato sauce, and just enough cheese to make it worth it.  The best part of this recipe is how versatile it is…  It’s a great way to use up whatever veggies you have in the crisper and is really flexible depending on what you like.

But wait, before you instantly think of omitting the tofu, consider this: tofu is a chameleon food.  It takes on whatever flavors you give it and it is an excellent source of protein and nutrients.  It is the perfect substitute for meat.  And I promise you, you won’t miss the meat.

Oh wait, have I ever introduced you to my pasta machine?  My very thoughtful and loving husband (yes, he does regularly read my blog), upgraded my pasta tools recently with the gift of an Atlas Marcato hand crank machine AND an Atlas Marcato pasta extruder.  I am in pasta heaven and here she is…  Isn’t she beautiful?

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And now that you’ve had the proper introduction…  🙂 After rolling out the sheets of dough, cut them into manageable pieces as shown here:

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  • 16, 3 x 4 pieces of fresh lasagna noodles (or 12 of the boxed variety).  Use my semolina pasta recipe.
  • 10 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

The sauce:

  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 1 package of tofu, dried of excess liquid and cubed into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2, 16 oz. cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 T. red pepper flakes (if you’re cooking for kids, I will give you a tip below on how to kill two birds with one culinary stone)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

The filling:

  • 1, 16 oz. container of cottage cheese (can use ricotta if you prefer, but I like cottage cheese here)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 bag (or one can) of artichokes, chopped finely
  • 4 T. each of fresh basil and parsley, chopped

I begin by preparing all the veggies first so I don’t have to stop and chop anything and mess up my groove.

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Boil pasta water.  If you are using boxed noodles,

In a very large skillet (the largest you have), heat 1 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and sweat until tender.  (Sweat is a term for cooking the veggies soft but not browning, slowly drawing the moisture out.)  Add garlic and eggplant and cook until soft.  (If you are using fresh pasta, drop it in now, only cook for 3-4 minutes or until it floats to the top.)  Add tofu last and cook for 3 minutes.  Add tomato sauce.  *** do not add red pepper flakes yet, I didn’t forget.

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While the sauce is simmering, mix together the filling:

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Drain the pasta thoroughly.  You don’t want excess water to ruin your perfect sauce and filling.  You might cry.  Or, if you’re not a crier like me (I’m known to cry only 2-3 times a year) at least kick yourself for while and obsess over how it could have been perfect.  Did I mention I have OCD tendencies?

Now, begin the lasagna layering…

FOR THE KIDS: I pull 4 pieces of the homemade noodle (2 of the boxed) and make my 4 year old a non hot pepper flake lasagna before I add the spice to the rest of the sauce.  Begin with a little sauce on the bottom, a layer of noodle, a thin later of filling, sauce, and then cheese.  Repeat.  This is a two layer lasagna.

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Now that the kids’ version is done, go ahead and add that red pepper flake to the sauce.  Stir to combine.  Same as with the kids’ lasagna, start with sauce on the bottom, noodles, filling, sauce, cheese.  Repeat.  Note: the fresh noodles should lay perfectly sideways and I do two layers because it’s so thin.

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Note:

  • To make Gluten Free, substitute noodles.  This would make a fantastic stuffed shell and there are some really good GF pasta shells.  Remember to only cook them half way otherwise they will get mushy quick.
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