Vegetable Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta and B├ęchamel Sauce


lasagna close up

I love lasagna. I mean, it’s layers of cheese and pasta and assorted yummy things. How can you not like it? But this particular recipe is especially good – and was created rather “accidentally” as I just started putting things together. I had ordered some spinach and garlic noodles from Papardelle’s. I first discovered them at their booth at one of my favorite places in the U.S… Pike’s Market in Seattle, WA. And I have been ordering from their incredible selection of pastas and oils ever since. I knew I wanted to do a vegetable lasagna with the green noodle layers… and a white sauce would let you see the color of the noodles. So I mixed up a traditional bechamel with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then I added my homemade ricotta mixed with my homemade pesto Genovese and then the magic happened. I took lots of photos of the preparation to hopefully help take the mystery out of it all! Bon apetito!

INGREDIENTS
9 no-bake lasagna noodles (preferably spinach-garlic noodles but any will do)
2 cups homemade ricotta (recipe here)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 medium zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1/2 of a medium sweet onion
1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms (baby bellas)
2 tablespoons olive oil (for sauteing)
2 large eggs salt and pepper to taste

Pesto Genovese (this is traditional pesto)
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bechamel Sauce (also known as white sauce)
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (I use 2% – I wouldn’t use non-fat or it will not thicken properly)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

PREPARATION Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Get your mis en place together. Slice your zucchini into thin dials. I sliced mine using a mandolin and sliced them on the diagonal so they would cover more surface space. Dice your bell pepper and sweet onion. Slice or dice your mushrooms – depending on our preference. Saute onion, bell pepper and mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until tender. Set aside. Make ricotta mixture:

Mix ricotta, pesto and shredded parm - taste and add S&P if needed. Then add eggs and stir (don't mix or whip).

Mix ricotta, pesto and shredded parm – taste and add S&P if needed. Then add eggs and stir (don’t mix or whip).

Make bechamel. Do this right as you're ready to assemble your Lasagna or it will become too thick when it cools.

Make bechamel. Do this right as you’re ready to assemble your Lasagna or it will become too thick when it cools.

Begin layering: Start with covering the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of the bechamel sauce. And lay 3 dry noodles lengthwise. Next spread a layer of the ricotta mixture. Then spread a layer the sauteed vegetables (you should use all of them). Then sprinkle one cup of mozzarella. Top with 3 more dry noodles. Brush several tablespoons of bechamel sauce on top of noodles. Add another layer of ricotta. Layer zucchini concentrically. Add another cup of mozzarella. Top with 3 more dry noodles. Brush final layer of bechamel sauce onto noodles. Be sure they are completely covered so they will cook. Sprinkle with last cup of mozzarella. I happened to have some fresh (in water) mozzarella and I tore it and added it on top as well.

Your noodles may not perfectly fit. Don't be afraid to break off a corner here and there so they lay flatly. Try not to over lap or they may not cook through.

Your noodles may not perfectly fit. Don’t be afraid to break off a corner here and there so they lay flatly. Try not to over lap or they may not cook through.

Layer zucchini concentrically.

Layer zucchini concentrically.

I use a pastry brush so I'm sure to spread the bechamel evenly covering the entire noodle. Since they are no-bake noodles, they need moisture to cook.

I use a pastry brush so I’m sure to spread the bechamel evenly covering the entire noodle. Since they are no-bake noodles, they need moisture to cook.

The final layer!

The final layer!

READY TO COOK? Cover lasagna tightly with foil. It helps to spray the underneath of the foil with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to the cheese. Put lasagna in a 400 degree oven on the middle rack for 45-50 minutes – until bubbling. Remove foil and cook and additional 15 minutes until cheese starts turning a lovely golden brown. Remove and let set for at least 20 minutes so it will hold up better when sliced. The photo below is an example of cutting into it too soon. :)

When cutting the lasagna too soon out of the oven, it will start  to collapse and your layers will slide off each other. :)

When cutting the lasagna too soon out of the oven, it will start to collapse and your layers will slide off each other. :)

THE PERFECT BITE Of course the perfect bite here will be a perfectly stacked slice… which is why it’s all the more important to let your lasagna rest a bit before taking a knife to it! And it’s even better the next day…

THE PERFECT PAIRING This would go perfectly with my Backyard Salad (minus the chicken). It would also pair nicely with a Sauvignon Blanc to compliment the pesto and rich bechamel sauce. I found this great site that pairs wines with vegetarian foods – check it out! www.ohmyveggies.com

THE PERFECT HEALTH Meatless Mondays have become a recent trend and with so many chefs out there sharing their fantastic recipes – it’s so easy to find delicious, satisfying and healthy meals! Read HERE about the many benefits of taking at least one day a week off from eating meat.