Smoky Mozzarella Lasagne Three Ways

I had two “fails” yesterday. One was the lasagne recipe I was planning on posting. It was a partial experiment (I added grilled vegetables), and it didn’t go as expected! The “fail” part was that it was a little too saucy and watery due to the vegetables — even though I had grilled them. My sweetie pie son kept saying “Mommy, this is SO not a fail! It’s SO good!” while eating it though, so the flavor wasn’t affected. He actually literally licked his plate clean.  Kind of gross but sweet at the  same time.  :)   Then when we had it the next night as a leftover, it was perfect — so unlike dry leftover lasagne that needs a good dose of extra sauce. So I think if I were to make this again, I would let it set awhile after coming out of the oven to let the juices redistribute and thicken more instead of cutting and serving right away. If anyone else has any other suggestions, please share! Otherwise, this is a great spin on a classic and it is a little lighter and more nutritious with the addition of the extra vegetables.

My other” fail” involved work.  Let’s just say I was screaming and cursing at 10:30 pm after working about six hours on an illustration only to lose ALL of the work I had done on the computer. In technical terms, I accidentally saved my file after collapsing all of my layers and reducing the dpi to 72 from 300 dpi instead of doing a “save as” and renaming it. The work was done after my automatic backup to my external hard drive, so I had no other copy.

Suffice it to say, it was a LONG day. I started redoing everything I had lost this morning at 6:45 am and completed everything before lunch.  I’ve just begun creating the final illustrations for the book , and I’m so excited about this project — can’t talk much about it, but it does involve food, so I’ve been making a lot of little paper collage treats. :)   It will be published by Viking next year!

Juicy oranges

Plate o’ donuts from the diner

On to that lasagne “fail” recipe…

I’ve been making this lasagne for years ever since I first saw a version of it in a 2000 issue of Gourmet. That’s how long it’s been! It’s a vegetarian lasagne that doesn’t have the ricotta and egg filling that traditional lasagne has, so it’s a bit lighter. I’ve changed the recipe over the years. I use a combination of smoky and regular mozzarella because I think using only smoky makes it too salty. I decided to take it a step further in my quest to increase veggies into our meals and layer the pasta with grilled eggplant and zucchini. I made three versions in one pan — 1/3 all pasta, 1/3 half pasta half veggie, and 1/3 no pasta all veggie. (Easy to guess who eats which portions!)

If using eggplant, salt slices and drain in colander for 30 minutes. I do this to season it and to reduce moisture.

Meanwhile make sauce. I buy whole tomatoes which I puree in my Vitamix, but crushed canned tomatoes works well too. Slow saute crushed garlic in olive oil to infuse the oil with flavor. Add tomatoes, dried basil, oregano, kosher salt, and sugar if you like, and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.

Cover lasagne noodles with boiling water in dish while sauce cooks for 20 minutes. This reduces the baking time. Determine how many noodles you need depending on how much vegetables you will be using. In my version I used six.

Move them around from time to time so they don’t stick.

If using veggies, grill; otherwise skip this step.

Pat rinsed and drained eggplant slices with paper towels. Brush zucchini and eggplant with olive oil and grill on each side for about 2 minutes. I cover mine with a lid so they steam and grill at the same time.

Look at those grill marks!

Now you’re ready to assemble lasagne. Drain pasta if using. Start with about a cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Then layer with noodles, veggies, 1 cup of mozzarella mixture, a spoonful of parmesan, another cup of sauce, and repeat two more times except on the last layer, end with sauce and reserve the cheeses.

Second layer

Last layer

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, top with rest of cheeses and bake another 10 minutes or so until cheese is melted.

You may have leftover grilled veggies, depending on how much you use.  This isn’t a bad thing.   They can easily be used in frittatas, pizzas, quesadillas, salads…

All pasta, no veg

Half pasta and veg

All veg

Smoky Mozzarella Lasagne Three Ways
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices crosswise

kosher salt
1 medium zucchini, cut into 3/8-inch slices lengthwise

olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, pressed through a garlic press or smashed

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or whole pureed)

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Lasagne noodles (figure on 3 sheets per “stack” — amount depends on how much vegetable you use)

8 oz. smoky mozzarella, grated

8 oz. plain mozzarella, grated

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Mix grated mozzarella cheeses together in a bowl and set aside.

3.  Salt and drain eggplant if using.

4.  Saute garlic in about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil until soft on low heat — do not burn!

5.  Add tomatoes, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and sugar if desired.  Simmer 20 minutes uncovered over medium low heat.

6. Meanwhile soak noodles in boiling water in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish, covering by about 1/2-inch.  Stir occasionally to keep pasta from sticking.

7.  Rinse and drain eggplant if using. Pat dry with paper towels.  Brush eggplant and zucchini slices with oil and grill about 2 minutes per side, covering with a large lid.

7.  Assemble lasagne using pasta or veggies or both in this general order:

1 cup sauce, pasta, vegetable, or both, 1 cup of the mozzarella mixture, a spoonful or so of the parmesan.  Repeat twice, reserving the last layer of cheese for later.

8.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and top with remaining cheese and bake for another 5- 10 minutes.

9.  Let rest for an hour if possible if using vegetables!  I think this would prevent runny sauce as mentioned at the beginning of the post.  This lasagne is great the next day!

See full post here: The Hungry Artist2012-04-19.