Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vegetarian lasagna

Have you ever tried to take a picture of baked lasagna, successfully?
Whatever ligt, angle and cheese used as topping, the lasagna always comes out as a goey mush.
It could have been improved with some grean lettuce leaves and tomatoes, but unfortunately, I had neither on hand today.

Luckily, most of us have had lasagna before so we know that this goey mush is indeed a great mix of tomatoes, cheese and delicious velvety pasta.

I start making my lasagna by cooking a tasty vegetable tomato sauce. I layer it with lasagna plates and ricotta cheese. Somtimes, when my local food store is out of ricotta (- or I'm too cheap to use ricotta since it costs twice as much as the alternative) I'm known to use cottage cheese that I mash with a fork instead. If you want my honest opinion (- if you don't, stop reading here), it works just as well. The strong flavors in the vegetable tomato sauce will overpower the delicate and distinctive taste in the ricotta cheese. It's the texsture I'm looking for in this dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
While oven is heating up, make the lasagna.

Tomato sauce.

1 Tbsp canola oil
2 small or 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 celery sticks, rinsed and sliced

1 small boc (1/2 cup) tomato puree
1 cup frozen spinach
1 can (1 pound) chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

2 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (1 1/2 pound)
lasagna plates
1 medium ball of mozarella cheese
2 Tbsp grated parmesan

Saute onion in the canola oil until transludent. Add carrots and celery sticks, and saute on medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

Add tomato paste, stir well until the onion, carrots and celery pieces are coated well.
Add chopped tomatoes, oregano and salt an pepper. Let boil for 20 minutes, or until carrots are almost done.
Add the frozen spinach. When the spinach is well blended into the sauce, the sauce is done.

My lasagna form is a deep 8 x 4 inch baking dish. Use whatever size that pleases your crowd.

Start with the vegetable tomato sauce.
Layer half of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish. Cover with lasagna plates. Spread half of the ricotta cheese over the lasagna plates. Make sure it's spread out evenly. Reserve 1/2 cup of the tomato vegetable sauce on the side, and spread the rest over the ricotta cheese. Cover with lasagna plates, and spread the reserved tomato vegetable sauce on top. This is done to make sure there will be enough moist to bake the lasagna plates througly since the ricotta cheese don't hold enough moisture.
Spread the ricotta cheese on top, cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes in the oven. After 20 minutes, remove the aluminus foil, spread the mozarella cheese on top, and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of the mozarella cheese. (I add parmesan as neither the ricotta nor mozarella cheese holds a lot of taste. The parmesan adds an extra flavor that goes well with the tomato and vegetable sauce).

Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and had taken on a golden color.


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