Friday, September 21, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

I love inviting folks over for dinner, even though we have nowhere but the floor to sit and eat.  Mr. FvF threw me a curveball a few weeks ago by inviting a vegetarian over for dinner.  I love a challenge, and as long as it's not vegan cooking - I'll rise to the occasion.  After giving it some thought, I realized I really love a good roasted veggie lasagna with bechamel, but have never attempted one on my own. Time to Frankenstein some recipes from the webbernet!  This is the part where I'll try desperately to remember how I did everything, since this all happened over two weeks ago.  Here's what you'll need:

1 box lasagna noodles*
1-2 jars alfredo sauce**
squash & zuchinni, 2 of each, sliced thin
1-2 large carrots, sliced thin
1-2 C fresh spinach
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 container ricotta cheese
1/2 C shredded parmesan (or any hard Italian cheese)
1C shredded mozzarella (the part skim stuff is fine here)
1 ball/container of fresh mozzarella, sliced
White wine
olive oil

*I prefer whole wheat, and I do NOT recommend the no-boil noodles for this.  This isn't a high water content dish, so they may not cook thoroughly. 
**Sure, about 2 cups of homemade bechamel would be great, but I don't have a sous chef or an extra hour in my day.  I used roasted red pepper for some extra flavor.  

First thing's first - get your noodles boiling in a big stock pot, so you'll have time to cool them before working with them.  Heat your oven to about 300 (350 tops) and start chopping your squash and carrots.  This was my first opportunity to really use my mandolin. Almost every other recipe I read said to "cube the veggies uniformly before roasting." In my opinion, paper-thin veggies make a much better looking presentation.  But, do whatever floats your boat.  If you're using a mandolin for the first time, for the love of God - be very careful. Fingertips in, knuckles out.  Even the cheap ones are seriously sharp and one fast move will leave you looking like your junior high shop class teacher.  Especially if you already have a mustache and a drinking problem.

Get all of your long veggies chopped to your liking, then toss them all in a roasting pan with a few hearty pinches of salt and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss around to make sure they're all covered, then roast them for about 15 minutes, watching closely that they don't get crispy around the edges.

While those are roasting, keep an eye on your pasta (never overcook your pasta, nerds) and start sauteing your diced onions and garlic over low heat in some olive oil and salt.  Remove from heat & set aside to cool off once onions are soft.

Your pasta and veggies should be done soon, so it's time to start your assembly line.  You'll be using nearly every inch of your counter space, but have everything you need out & ready with its own utensil.   You'll thank me later.  At this point, I like to take my roasted veggies, onions, garlic and spinach and toss them all on a bowl so I don't have to add them individually.  I do the same with the shredded parm and mozzarella (save the whole mozz for last, though!)

Start with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom, then a layer of noodles.  On top of the noodles, layer about 1/3 C ricotta, then a layer of veggies, then a layer of your shredded cheeses, then another drizzle of the sauce.  Lather, rinse repeat until you run out of fillings, and make sure you are left with a smidge of sauce after layering the last noodles.  Top those final noodles with a drizzle of the cream sauce, then add your sliced fresh mozzarella.  I like to sprinkle on a smidge of extra salt and red pepper flakes at the end, too.

Gaze in awe for a moment, then bake this BAMF at 350 for about 40 minutes covered loosely in foil, then another 15 minutes after removing the foil so that your cheese gets nice and brown & bubbly.


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