Chopped Veggie Lasagna

Now that school is back in session, for me and my children, I need to plan some easy weeknight meals that can almost cook themselves. Lasagna is a great meal for a school night because you can prepare it in the morning or the night before and keep it in the fridge or, if you are super ambitious, make a couple at a time and freeze them uncooked until you are in need of something ready-made. Lasagna tastes better after it cools down a bit after baking so you can pop this in the oven a couple of hours ahead of dinner time and you don’t have to think about it. Take it out of the oven when it is done cooking, cover it with foil, and let it sit until you are ready to eat it. Couldn’t be easier!

This week seems to be zucchini week in my house! I have made a chocolate zucchini banana bread, zucchini and pork stir fry and now a chopped veggie lasagna – star ingredient: zucchini, of course!

Ingredients:

9 lasagna noodles (I used gluten free)
1 large jar of spaghetti sauce or 4 to 5 large tomatoes, chopped
5 or 6 cloves garlic
1 large onion, sliced
2 zucchini, chopped
3 small eggplant, chopped (I used fairytale eggplant)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Onion, garlic, and tomatoes

1 pound crumbled sausage, cooked (optional)

Directions:

1. Veggie layer: Saute the garlic cloves and onion in a little bit of olive oil. Add the chopped zucchini and eggplant and cook until tender. Set aside.

2. Make the sauce: In the same pan, add the chopped tomatoes and cook them over medium until they start to resemble spaghetti sauce. Mash them a bit with your spoon to crush them as you cook them. Add some salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and any other Italian seasoning you have on hand. I used an Italian seasoning blend to make it easy! If you don’t want to make your own sauce, by all means grab a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce and skip this step.

Chopped fairytale eggplant and baby zucchinis
Ricotta, mozzarella, and egg

3. Cheesy Layer: In a large bowl, combine 2 cups ricotta cheese, 1 egg, and about 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella. I recommend that you shred your own mozzarella – delicious! – but if you have pre-shredded in the house, use that! During this step, I also like to grind some fresh pepper and throw some coarse sea salt in with the cheese to give it some extra flavor.

4. Spoon some sauce on the bottom of a large 9 x 12 pan. Layer 3 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. (Nope, I did not precook my noodles! I am a rebel!) Spoon about 1/2 of the cheese mixture over the noodles and smooth out evenly. If you are using sausage, sprinkle about 1/2 of the sausage over the cheese and about 1/2 of the cooked veggies.

The first two layers … sauce and then noodles (uncooked!)
A few more layers…

5. Generously cover the veggie and sausage layer with tomato sauce. Cover with three lasagna noodles. Spread the remaining cheese over the noodles. Top with sausage and veggies. Spoon spaghetti sauce over these ingredients but save a large spoonful of sauce.

6. Cover with three more lasagna noodles. Spoon the last of the sauce over these noodles. Sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella.

7. Cook at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. You can cover the lasagna with foil for the first 30 minutes and then cook it uncovered for the remaining time if you don’t like your top layer to be too crunchy. We served this with a delicious salad and there were plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. Enjoy!!

This week’s star local NC ingredients ... Globe onions from Ann & Russ’s Garden, tomatoes and fairy tale eggplants from Edgerton Farm, baby zucchinis from Charlene’s Garden, garlic from Adawehi Farm, and sausage from Glenreid Farm  … gluten-free lasagna noodles found at Earth Fare … can’t help but take advantage of all this great NC produce in August!! What an abundance!

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