Guests are coming over for dinner and at least one of those diners is a vegetarian. Cooks always want to please everyone at the table, and perhaps much fretting over the menu plan begins.
Enter this lush mushroom and spinach vegetable lasagna that will not fail to please everyone at the table, including the most staunch meat lovers. Succulent mushrooms in a rich and zesty fresh homemade tomato sauce with generous slices of fontina cheese tucked into delectable sheets of fresh pasta noodles is comfort on a plate. Light and creamy ricotta pairs well with the more robust and earthy textures and flavors present in this dish resulting in a sumptuous meal with balanced elegance.
Vegetarian Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
For the sauce:
- 5 to 6 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/2 oz (14 g) dried wild mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
- 2 to 3 fresh chilies or jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 cups white or cremini mushrooms, chopped
- 6 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
- 5 1/2 oz (160 mL) can tomato paste
- 1/3 cup fresh basil (2 teaspoons dried)
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano (2 teaspoons dried)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper
- 4 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
- 9 to 10 sheets fresh or dry lasagne noodles
- 1 2/3 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
- 9 oz (250 g) fontina or mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Soak the sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain and chop.
To prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Toss in the garlic and chilies or jalapeños, and continue to fry and stir for 2 minutes. Add the ground cumin and cayenne, stir a few times to coat the vegetables, and add the fresh and dried mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring often, for a few minutes more.
Now add the fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, thyme, salt and black pepper. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened — about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, lightly grease a 9 × 13 inch glass baking dish. Set aside.
Begin preparing the lasagne by boiling the spinach in water for just a few minutes until wilted. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out the excess water.
If using dried lasagna, cook until al dente according to package instructions in a large pot of salted water. Drain and rinse under cold water and set aside. (If using fresh pasta, there is no need to pre-cook.)
In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, parsley and egg if using.
To assemble the lasagne, spread about 2/3 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the noodles over the sauce, and then evenly spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Follow this with half of the spinach, half of the remaining tomato sauce, and then half of the sliced fontina or mozzarella cheese. Repeat from the noodle layer. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese.
Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30 to 40 minutes until thickened and nicely browned on top. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
I served this up with some flaky [highlight]Southern-Style Buttermilk Biscuits[/highlight] and my famous [highlight]Caesar Salad[/highlight] for a complete and mighty delicious and satisfying meal. I can assure you my diners didn’t leave the table hungry and indeed, asked for seconds.