Vegetable Lasagna

Who doesn’t love lasagna? Especially when it’s cheesy, loaded with veggies, and smothered with my favorite tomato sauce. The secret star of the cheesy show is whipped feta instead of ricotta or cottage cheese. It’s creamier, saltier, and just better. I said it.

This isn’t a quick and easy weeknight lasagna, but you can break it up by making the sauce ahead of time (it’ll easily keep for 3-4 days in the fridge). Once the lasagna is assembled, you can bake it immediately or plan to prep it the night before, leaving it covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it off the next day.

You’ll have a bit of leftover tomato sauce – it freezes well, or some other suggested options: use it for cheesy garlic bread dippers, eat it with a spoon, or take a bath in it.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • Olive oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (san marzano if you can find them)
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz whipped cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, plus a few extra leaves for serving
  • 8 oz frozen spinach (approx 2 cups worth), thawed
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 serrano pepper (optional, this is for some heat if you like it spicy)
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 12 fresh pasta sheets or no boil lasagna noodles (4 layers x 3 noodles per layer)*
  • 2 cups freshly grated, low-moisture mozzarella cheese

*If you’re using fresh pasta sheets, you do not have to cook them prior to preparing/baking the lasagna. I was always turned off from making fresh lasagna sheets from scratch because it involved the mess of boiling each sheet, followed by an ice bath, followed by blotting them dry between paper towels, etc. Roll out the sheets, cut to the size of the pan, and stick them between sheets of wax or parchment paper until ready to use.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. EGGPLANT: slice the eggplant crosswise into circles (between 1/4″-1/2″ inch). Place the slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper and roast for approximately 30 minutes, until soft and golden. Remove from oven and let cool.
  3. SAUCE: while the eggplant is roasting, make the tomato sauce. In a medium saucepan, add the can of tomatoes, half the white onion, 2 tbsp butter, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and 1 tsp sea salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce to heat to medium-low and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
  4. Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and blend into a smooth puree consistency in a food processor or blender. If you’re using a blender, cover with a towel so you don’t burn yourself from the steam. Set sauce aside.
  5. WHIPPED FETA: add the cream cheese, feta, egg, and basil to the base of a food processor along with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Process until everything is evenly whipped together. Scrape into a bowl and set aside (refrigerate until ready to use).
  6. VEGGIES: squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible. Add the spinach, remaining 1/2 of the white onion, green bell pepper, and serrano pepper (if using) to the base of a food processor and pulse a few times until finely chopped (but not pureed).
  7. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the veggie mixture along with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are softened and the onion is translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and set the veggie mixture aside.
  8. ASSEMBLY: spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of a 9″ x 9″ baking dish. Layer 3 lasagna noodles on top, overlapping as necessary. Gently spread half of the whipped feta evenly over the noodles, followed by half of the roasted eggplant slices.
  9. Add the second layer of 3 lasagna noodles, followed by 3/4 cup of tomato sauce, and then half of the spinach mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese on top of the spinach mixture.
  10. Add the third layer of 3 lasagna noodles, followed by the remaining half of the whipped feta, the remaining half of the eggplant slices, and the remaining half of the veggies.
  11. Add the fourth and final layer of the last 3 lasagna noodles, followed by 3/4 cup tomato sauce. Scatter the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese over the top.
  12. If your baking dish comes with a lid, place the lid on top of the dish. Alternatively, cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes and then remove the cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the cheese on top starts to bubble and turn golden brown.
  13. Remove from the oven, scatter additional basil leaves over the top, and serve once it’s cooled slightly.

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