We can't believe that winter is almost over and we haven't posted a single recipe for lasagna! This timeless casserole dish is one of our staple comfort foods in any season, honestly, but it feels especially appropriate when "wintry mix" is in our forecast. We love adapting it to whatever happens to be hanging around in the fridge and occasionally dressing it up with such exotic ingredients as butternut squash and swiss chard. It's also an inexpensive way to feed a crowd and still leave leftovers for week-day lunches.
If your memories of lasagna are of crunchy edges and soggy layers of cheese, we think you'll like this recipe. It's one of our favorites: cheesy and chock full of tender veggies.
The steam from the crushed tomatoes and broth will cook the veggies and noodles just enough so that they're soft but not over-cooked. Eliminating the extra step of boiling the noodles also saves a bit of time and hassle.
If you want to make this recipe entirely vegetarian, feel free to eliminate the meat and double the amount of veggies. You'll also want to increase the liquid added at the end to 1/3 cup or so.
Chunky Cheesy Lasagna
10 dry lasagna noodles (not no boil)
1/2 - 3/4 pounds of ground turkey, beef, or meat substitute (optional)--cooked
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small eggplant, zucchini, or summer squash--diced
1 red bell pepper--diced
1 package baby bella mushrooms or portabella mushrooms--diced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
2-3 cups shredded cheese (we prefer a blend of mozzarella, provolone, romano, and asiago)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 cup of water or chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix all the chopped vegetables together in a large bowl and combine with all the spices. Taste a piece of eggplant or mushroom and adjust the spices if necessary--the mix should actually taste a bit too salty at this point.
Combine ricotta and cottage cheese together in a small bowl.
In a 9x13 casserole dish or baking pan, spread a light layer of crushed tomatoes and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar over the top. Arrange a layer of five noodles--you may have to break the last one a bit to make it fit into the rectangle. Spread half of the ricotta-cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Then layer on half of the veggies and half of the meat. Finally layer on about one cup of cheese and half the can of crushed tomatoes. Sprinkle one teaspoon of sugar over the tomatoes. Repeat with another layer, reserving a bit of cheese for the topping.
Swish the water or chicken broth in the empty can of tomatoes and dribble evenly over the top of the lasagna.
Cover the lasagna with a double layer of tinfoil and bake for one hour. After an hour, check to see how done the noodles are and the onions are by poking with a toothpick or skewer and spooning out one of the onions. Re-cover and continue checking every 15 minutes until the onions taste just a bit under done. Uncover the lasagna and top with the reserved cheese. Bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and a bit brown.