January 20, 2014

Vegetable Lasagna

"Bye-bye" 2013 and "Hello" 2014! Yes, this is my first post in the year 2014. 

Well, 2013 had been a great year for me especially on the blogging side. Must say that some of the best things happened to me last year. Moved on from P&S to DSLR. Extended my blogging boundary with the help of "food-porn" sites like foodgawker, tastespotting, pinterest etc. (Now, getting my photos accepted by these sites is a different story altogether...) and these sites helped bringing in a lot of traffic and my blog reached 100K page-hits in a remarkably short span.

I am totally geared up for more such experiences this year too. I have signed up with "We Knead To Bake" group and I am so looking forward to wonderful baking experiences with them. I have a lot of favorite/pinned recipes from various cuisines that I just couldn't wait to try in this new year! 

Last but not the least, I wish all my readers, fellow-bloggers a very happy & peaceful 2014!

Now, coming to the recipe, Vegetable Lasagna is a great alternative for non meat-eaters that is loaded with a lot of vegetables and greens. This lasagna has two layers, a cottage cheese with spinach layer & a vegetable layer. For vegetable layer, I have used carrots, zucchini & bell peppers. Vegetables like yellow squash, mushrooms works well too! I chose cottage cheese (skimmed) between ricotta cheese & cottage cheese for obvious health reasons, but both of them works well for this recipe.

A must-have lasagna recipe for anyone's recipe collection!

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 30 mins
Cook time - 20 mins
Serves - 9 servings

For the pasta layer
11-12 whole grain lasagna sheets (Eating Right brand)

Layer 1 - Cottage Cheese Mixture
16 oz (1 lb) cottage cheese
1 packed cup of cheddar cheese (I used medium)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp pepper powder
2 cups of fresh/frozen chopped spinach

Layer 2 - Vegetables Mixture
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, medium sized
a pinch of red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, half inch cubes
2 carrots, half inch cubes
1.5 bell pepper, half inch cubes
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black-pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup of chopped tomatoes (I used oven-dried roma tomatoes brought from costco)

Cheese mixture
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1/2 cup medium cheddar, grated (optional, replace with parmesan)

For the pasta layer
Cook pasta as per the package instructions and keep it ready.

Cheese mixture
Mix all the grated cheese until evenly combined and set aside.

Layer 1 - Cottage Cheese Mixture
Saute chopped spinach in a tsp of oil until the leaves wilt. Let it cool and drain excess water. In a large bowl, mix cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, salt, dried basil, pepper powder, saute 'ed spinach and set aside until use.

Layer 2 - Vegetables Mixture
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil, add onion and saute until translucent. Add a pinch of chilli flakes, finely chopped garlic and saute until the raw smell of garlic is gone. Add cubed carrots & zucchini and saute until they are soft yet with some crunch. Add cubed bell pepper and saute until they are soft but with crunch. Add chopped tomatoes & tomato paste and cook until all the water from the tomatoes evaporates and the mixture thickens. Adjust salt & pepper to your taste. Add a handful of chopped fresh basil, if you have it in stock (I skipped it as I didn't have basil in stock).

Assemble Lasagna
Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F.

Slightly grease a 9x9 lasagna pan with olive oil and keep it ready.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of vegetable mixture into the baking dish to cover the bottom (about 3/4 cup). Arrange four sheets of pasta lengthwise and side by side to cover the bottom. Cut pasta sheets to fit the baking pan.

Divide cottage-cheese mixture into 2 parts, vegetable mixture into 3 parts and cheese mixture into 3 parts.

Spread one part of the cottage cheese mixture over the pasta sheets. Sprinkle one part of the cheese mixture. Then, top with one part of the vegetable mixture.

Add another layer of four noodles then repeat with the second part of cottage cheese mixture, cheese mixture & vegetable mixture.

Finally, finish with a layer of pasta sheets, and third part of vegetable mixture and cheese mixture.

Bake Lasagna
Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes. Slide under the broiler for 1-2 mins for browned crust.

Serve & enjoy!

- Replace cottage cheese with ricotta cheese. 
- For vegan version, you could use tofu curds instead of cottage cheese and skip cheese mixture altogether.