Holiday, Italian, Lunch, Dinner and Entrees

Holiday hosting with roasted vegetable Lasagna

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This is probably one of my longer posts with a lot more pictures and description than usual. I wanted to take the time to elaborate the techniques used in this dish. Lasagna is a dish which takes time to put together but once done, it can provide 10-15 servings. So this dish is very versatile when there is company. Moreover, this dish appeals to all ages, it does not have any bold flavors or tastes and keeps everything mellow and neutral.

Oven roasting vegetables is a technique where vegetables are sliced and baked at high temperature usually 400 to 425 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and seasonings. This method brings out the natural sugars from the vegetables and caramelizes them to a rich brown color and a crisp texture without overcooking them. Some of the vegetables which bode well to oven roasting are eggplant, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, celery, peppers and onions. Adding fresh herbs while roasting, infuses flavor directly to the vegetable layer.When I have some extra time on hand, I oven roast different vegetables and store them in glass dishes in the fridge. This comes very handy to use as needed in lasagna or even a simple sandwich.

Lasagna is a main dish which is both wholesome and satisfying as it combines all the food groups of carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables. Recently I chanced upon a green lentil based bake-ready lasagna which means no pre-cooking the lasagna sheets, just use them as is. I gave it a try and was pleased that it came out exceptionally well.

Lasagna can be assembled and kept frozen until ready to bake. It can also be cooked several days in advance and warmed up to serve.

In this preparation, I use eggplant, zucchini, green peppers, celery and red onions. I oven roasted the vegetables with red pepper flakes for heat, rosemary and garlic for flavor.

For the cheese layer, ricotta cheese is typically used but ricotta is a very heavy cheese, so in order to lighten up the dish, I mixed it with whipped cream cheese. This brings a tangy taste which provides a pleasant surprise to the palate instead of just a creamy ricotta note.

I seasoned the cheese layer with a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce, which is used as one of the layers and this provides a common taste blend throughout the dish. Optionally, I may season the cheese layer with salt and red chilly powder. We do like spicy !

So here are the layers – tomato sauce layer (I utilized a good store bought one), pasta layer, vegetable layer and cheese layer. By repeating these layers 3-4 times, we will have a nice hearty lasagna ready to go.

Roasted vegetable Lasagna recipe

Ingredients

  • Oven Ready Lasagna sheets 12 sheets
  • Tomato pasta sauce 25 oz
  • Ricotta Cheese (part-skim) 15 oz
  • Whipped Cream cheese 8 oz
  • Shredded mozarella cheese 2-3 tbsps
  • Italian seasoning 2 tbsps

For roasting the vegetables –

  • Vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, celery, red onions)
  • Red chilli flakes 1 tbsp
  • Garlic smashed 4-5 pods
  • Rosemary sprigs 3-4 stalks
  • Olive oil 6 tbsps
  • Salt

Procedure –

Roasting Vegetables –

  • Slice all the vegetables in long ½ inch thick slices.
  • On a cookie sheet, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle red pepper flakes, rosemary sprigs, garlic and salt. Then coat the vegetables with the oil mixture and line in a single layer.
  • Bake at 425 degrees hot oven for 10-15 minutes. They will turn slightly brown but will be crisp.
  • I did this few days earlier with several of the vegetables and had 3 boxes stored away in the refrigerator.

Cheese mixture –

  • In a mixing bowl add the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 2 tbsps of pasta sauce, red chilly powder and salt – mix well. Set aside.

Lasagna preparation –

  • Take a large glass dish about 12 inch by 9 inch size. It may also be called a Lasagna dish.
  • Line up 4 things for the assembly line – lasagna sheets, pasta sauce, roasted vegetables, cheese mixture.
  • In the lasagna dish, spread a tsp of olive oil on the bottom.
  • 1. spread 2 tbsps of the pasta sauce.
  • 2. put 3 sheets of pasta.
  • 3. put a layer of mixed roasted vegetables. Sprinkle Italian seasoning and red chilli flakes.
  • 4. spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture.
  • Repeat steps 1 to 4 – to get three sets of layers.
  • Finally top the remaining pasta sauce completely to cover.
  • Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes or as per pasta package directions.
  • Let sit after turning off oven for 15 minutes for all the juices to be absorbed.

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