Vegetable Lasagna

published Mar 4, 2022
Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

While this lasagna is packed with vegetables, it doesn't skimp on the pasta or cheese.

Serves10 to 12

Prep40 minutes to 45 minutes

Cook2 hours

Jump to Recipe
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Lasagna in a pan
Credit: Meleyna Nomura

One of my favorite books when I was a kid involved two best friends hatching an elaborate plan to switch families for a week. One of the first disappointments in the grass-is-always-greener plot line is when one family sits down to an eagerly anticipated dinner of lasagna. The protagonist is horrified to discover her “mom” for the week had replaced the noodles with zucchini. As a kid who was probably chomping away on a pizza pocket while reading this scene, I felt her pain. Zucchini instead of pasta? Whoever heard of such a thing! 

I now know how great zucchini can be as a pasta substitute, but I also know it’s possible to have the best of both worlds. This vegetable lasagna is positively packed with vegetables, but doesn’t skimp on either the pasta or the cheese.

What Are the Main Components of Vegetable Lasagna?

Basic lasagnas have three main components: noodles, sauce, and cheese, which is generally a mix of ricotta and mozzarella. This vegetable lasagna adds a slew of veggies to the mix.

  • Tomato sauce: A bunch of browned mushrooms is the base for this thick and rich tomato sauce. Tomato paste, canned crushed tomatoes, and canned whole peeled tomatoes cook together for the lushest texture. It simmers aways while the vegetables roast
  • Roasted vegetables: Vegetable lasagnas can include everything from spinach and mushrooms to zucchini and broccoli. This version leans heavily on Mediterranean favorites. Roasting zucchini and eggplant concentrates their flavor and cooks out a lot of the water, ensuring a sturdy lasagna slice that doesn’t slip and slide all over your plate. Jarred roasted red peppers are invited to the party as well, adding lots of flavor without an extra cooking step.
  • Cheese, cheese, and more cheese: A layer of ricotta is classic in Italian-American-style lasagna. A full cup of Parmesan brings salty depth of flavor to the mild and milky cheese, while a little lemon zest brightens it up. Heavy cream helps prevent that gritty texture baked ricotta can sometimes have and makes it easier to spread as you layer. Spinach is a common addition to the ricotta mixture as well, but I reached for a literal bunch of fresh basil instead. Finally, a pound of mozzarella provides that classic, melty stretch.
  • Pasta: Many lasagna recipes call for 12 to 14 ounces of lasagna noodles, leaving a few noodles behind in the box. I never know what to do with these stragglers. So I use a full pound of noodles here, resulting in a towering dish. The result is an impressive vegetarian main dish.

How Do I Assemble Vegetable Lasagna?

There are a lot of components to lasagna, and taking a moment to assess everything before assembling helps a lot in the end. Since the last layer you assemble is the first thing you see, setting aside enough ingredients for the top layer ensures you don’t run out of noodles before you’ve reached the top. 

Count the number of noodles you have and divide by four to understand how many you’ll use for each layer. (You may need to cut some to fit; kitchen shears work great for this.) Reserve the nicest-looking ones for the top, patching together any broken ones for the interior where you can’t see them.

The most important part of a successful lasagna actually comes after baking. You know when you pull the lasagna out of the oven and it’s gloriously bubbling? All the sauce and cheese and juicy vegetables are boiling away. Let the lasagna rest at least 20 minutes to allow everything to set up before cutting into it. This hefty casserole will still be plenty hot even 30 minutes after baking — no need to rush to the table!

Credit: Meleyna Nomura

Can I Make Vegetable Lasagna Ahead of Time?

Vegetable lasagna is the perfect make-ahead meal. There is a fair amount of work upfront, but once assembled it can chill in the refrigerator for a day until you’re ready to bake it. It will need an extra 10 to 15 minutes in the oven, but all the active work is behind you.

If you’re not cooking for 12 people, you can also split the recipe between two 8×8 baking dishes. Give one away to a friend in need of a hot dinner, or freeze one for down the road. Just defrost in the refrigerator overnight and bake as directed. 

Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

While this lasagna is packed with vegetables, it doesn't skimp on the pasta or cheese.

Prep time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Cook time 2 hours

Serves 10 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 1 pound

    cremini mushrooms

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 4 cloves

    garlic

  • 4 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    crushed tomatoes

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    whole peeled tomatoes

For the roasted vegetables:

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    zucchini (about 3 medium)

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided, plus more for the pan

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 1 1/4 pounds

    eggplant (about 1 large)

For assembly:

  • 1 pound

    low-moisture mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)

  • 5 ounces

    Parmesan cheese (about 1 3/4 cups firmly packed grated on a Microplane, or 1 1/4 cups store-bought grated)

  • 1 large bunch

    fresh basil

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1 (15- to 16-ounce) container

    whole milk ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)

  • 1/4 cup

    heavy cream

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 (16-ounce) jar

    roasted red peppers

  • 1 pound

    dried lasagna noodles

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • Cooking spray

Instructions

Make the sauce:

  1. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 400°F.

  2. Trim and coarsely chop 1 pound cremini mushrooms. Finely chop 1 large yellow onion. Mince 4 garlic cloves.

  3. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot or Dutch oven until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced in volume and well browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.

  4. Add the garlic, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste and cook until it starts to darken in color and stick to the bottom of the pot, 1 to 2 minutes.

  5. Add 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes and 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pot and breaking up the whole tomatoes into large chunks with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Fill the crushed tomato can halfway with water, swirl to collect any tomato bits stuck to the can, and pour it into the pot. Stir and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes. (You should have 6 to 7 cups of sauce.) Meanwhile, roast the vegetables.

Make the roasted vegetables:

  1. Coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray or olive oil.

  2. Trim and cut 1 1/2 pounds zucchini in half crosswise. Cut the pieces lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick planks. Place on one of the baking sheets. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper. Toss to coat and arrange in a single layer.

  3. Trim and cut 1 1/4 pounds eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Cut any larger rounds in half into half-moons. Place on the second baking sheet. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Arrange in a single layer, overlapping slightly if needed to fit.

  4. Place the zucchini on the lower rack and eggplant on the upper rack. Roast until the bottoms of the zucchini are browned, about 20 minutes. Flip both the zucchini and eggplant slices. Return to the oven, this time with the eggplant on the bottom rack. Roast until tender and browned, 10 to 15 minutes more. (The eggplant may need a few minutes more than the zucchini.) Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients for assembly.

Assemble and bake the lasagna:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, grate 1 pound mozzarella cheese on the large holes of a box grater (about 4 cups). Finely grate 5 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1 3/4 packed cups, or use 1 1/4 cups store-bought grated). Transfer 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan to a small bowl and toss to combine for the topping. Pick and coarsely chop the leaves from 1 large bunch fresh basil until you have 1 loosely packed cup. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon until you have 2 teaspoons.

  2. Place 1 container ricotta cheese in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, remaining Parmesan, basil, 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine. Drain 1 (16-ounce) jar roasted red peppers and cut into 1/4-inch strips.

  3. Add the lasagna noodles to the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Drain and transfer to a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat.

  4. Coat a 9x13x3-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Set aside 1/4 of the best-looking noodles for the top layer. Top with 1/3 of the remaining noodles, overlapping them slightly and cutting to fit as needed. Dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and spread into an even layer with the back of the spoon. Arrange 1/3 of the zucchini, 1/3 of the eggplant, and 1/3 of the roasted peppers evenly on top. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella (1 heaped cup). Dollop 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce on top and spread into an even layer.

  5. Repeat the layering the noodles, ricotta, vegetables, mozzarella, and sauce two more times. Arrange the reserved noodles on top and spread the remaining sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle with the reserved mozzarella and Parmesan mixture.

  6. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is deeply browned, 20 minutes more. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The lasagna can be assembled, covered with aluminum foil, and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead. Bake straight from the refrigerator, but bake for 40 minutes covered with foil before uncovering and doing the second bake.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days.