Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not Your Usual Lasagna- this one's impressive!

This lasagna is my absolute favourite- you can go noodle free and, bonus, it's vegetarian!  Grilling the vegetables is well worth the effort and the puttanesca sauce injects another layer of flavour.  I often double the quantity of sauce and freeze it to use later with spaghetti.

The basic recipe for Grilled Vegetable Lasagna with Puttanesca Sauce was provided by Emeril Lagasse.  I've made it my own, with great results.

Serves 8 - 10.

2     lbs ricotta (you could substitute cottage cheese, if you must.  Or use half ricotta and half cottage cheese)
1     tsp salt
1/2  cup pesto (make your own, it's easy, or buy good quality pesto from the Italian deli)
Puttanesca sauce (recipe, with ingredients, follows)
1 1/4 lbs lasagna noodles, cooked al dente (or buy fresh from the Italian deli)
Grilled vegetables (recipe, with ingredients, follows)
8     oz mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with salt and pesto.

Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish, then cover the bottom of the dish with puttanesca sauce (about 1/2 cup).  Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles.  Top the lasagna noodles with a layer of ricotta, then a layer of eggplant, zucchini, onion and red pepper, a layer of mozzarella and a layer of puttanesca sauce.  Repeat layering the lasagna, ricotta, vegetables, mozzarella and sauce in this manner until all the ingredients have been used, ending with mozzarella on top.

Bake until the lasagna is bubbling and golden brown, about one hour and fifteen minutes.  Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

Puttanesca sauce:
1/4  cup olive oil
1     cup finely chopped onion
6     cloves minced garlic
2     28 oz cans tomatoes, broken into pieces, with juice (romas preferred)
1     cup tightly packed, pitted, chopped kalamata olives
2     tbsp tomato paste
2     tbsp drained capers
2     tbsp minced anchovy fillets (I omit in my version)
1/2  tsp dried crushed basil
1/2  tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes

In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce thickens and slightly reduces, about 40 minutes.  Adjust the seasonings to taste, cover and set aside.

Grilled vegetables:
4     medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
4     red or yellow bell peppers, roasted, seeded and peeled
2     medium eggplant (about 1.5 lbs), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
2     large onions, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1     lbs white mushrooms, sliced
1/4  cup olive oil

Preheat the broiler or heat up a countertop grill.
In a large shallow bowl, toss the vegetables with the oil and salt.  If using the broiler, arrange the vegetables in a single layer on lightly greased baking sheets.  Grill or broil in batches, turning the vegetables once, until they are tender, lightly browned and have released most of their moisture, about 5 minutes per side.  If grilling, follow same directions, but make sure you get great grill marks on your vegetables.

Wanna play?
Substitute your favourite vegetables- fennel, squash, artichoke, portobello mushrooms- grilled until their moisture is released.

Go wheat free by using your eggplant slices as the "noodles".  Slice them 1/2 inch thick then grill them and make sure the moisture is released before building your lasagna.

Instead of making one big pan of lasagna to serve 8-10, you could use smaller square or rectangular pans to serve two.  Or make individual lasagnas in round ramekins by cutting the ingredients to size and layering them.  This recipe freezes well.  Cook from frozen in a preheated oven.

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