There’s no reason why a vegetable lasagna made with the classic trio of eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash should be any less satisfying than a meat-based casserole, especially when the produce is in season and locally grown.
But we’ve rarely cooked one that we’ve been moved to make again. Some versions look tempting enough with a topcoat of bubbly cheese and thick tomato gravy, but cutting out a square of it invariably reveals trouble at the core. Often placed between the pasta sheets raw, the zucchini and squash turn out steamy and limp, flooding the dish with their juices or, in some instances, undercooked and crunchy.
Then there’s the eggplant, which is typically not only soggy but greasy from pre-frying. Add to that the usual patches of dry, grainy ricotta and it’s a wonder this dish ever became an Italian American standard.
Vegetable LasagnaServings: 8-10
Start to finish: 1 hour, 45 minutesPart-skim mozzarella can also be used in this recipe, but avoid pre-shredded cheese, as it does not melt well. We prefer kosher salt because it clings best to the eggplant. If using table salt, reduce the amounts by half.
Tomato Sauce:1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Cream Sauce:8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk cottage cheese
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Filling and Noodles:1 1/2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Kosher salt and pepper
1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
12 ounces (12 cups) baby spinach
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, minced
12 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
For the tomato sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.
For the cream sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in second bowl; set aside.
For the filling and noodles: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 F. Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Line large plate with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over coffee filters; wipe out and reserve bowl. Microwave eggplant until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through microwaving. Let cool slightly. Return eggplant to bowl and toss with zucchini and summer squash.
Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and thyme in small bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of eggplant mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of skillet. Add half of garlic mixture to center and cook, mashing mixture into pan, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir garlic mixture into vegetables and transfer to medium bowl. Repeat with 2 tablespoons oil, remaining eggplant mixture, and remaining garlic mixture; transfer to bowl.
Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to paper towel-lined plate and let drain for 2 minutes. Stir into eggplant mixture. (Filling can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)
Grease 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce evenly over bottom of dish. Arrange 4 noodles on top of sauce (noodles will overlap). Spread half of vegetable mixture evenly over noodles, followed by 1/4 cup olives. Spoon half of cream sauce over top and sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetable mixture, remaining 1/4 cup olives, remaining cream sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella. For final layer, arrange remaining 4 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella evenly over tomato sauce.
Nutrition Information Per Serving537 calories; 296 calories from fat; 33 g fat (14 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 68 mg cholesterol; 928 mg sodium; 42 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 25 g protein.
America’s Test Kitchen provided this article to The Associated Press.