Lasagne is my kids’ favourite dinner. And who can blame them? It’s full of flavour, cheese and pasta! Though it isn’t a quick 30-minute weeknight meal, it is perfect for the weekend.
Why lasagna is the perfect weekend meal:
• It is the perfect way to get more vegetables into your diet.
• It gets kids involved. Kids can help with chopping or grating vegetables and cheese. Older kids can help make the pasta sauce. And even the littlest helpers can layer lasagne noodles.
• You can make a double or triple batch and freeze lasagne for a quick weeknight meal. The trick is to use a smaller square container, no larger than 9″ x 9″ so that it can defrost quickly.
• Lasagne is perfect for getting creative with cooking. Use seasonal vegetables and have fun with the flavours.
Sauces and Fillings
Here are some recipes to kick-start your lasagnes. Feel free to pick and choose the layers to make your own favourite combination or follow one of the suggestions below.
Quick Tomato Sauce
It’s worth making homemade tomato sauce because you can avoid the added sugar and salt in the bottled version. Homemade sauce is also much more affordable than store-bought.
This recipe is for a plain tomato sauce; if you want to make a meat sauce, brown 1 lb of ground beef with the onions. For a hearty vegetarian option, add 2 cups of cooked brown lentils to the finished tomato sauce.
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp of Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1. Chop the onion and dice the garlic.
2. Sauté the onion until soft (if using ground beef, sauté until browned.)
3. Add all the remaining ingredients and continue to cook for 15 minutes.
4. Taste and adjust the salt as needed.
White sauce is perfect for a creamy lasagne or as a dairy-free alternative to ricotta cheese. If you are making a dairy-free white sauce, replace the butter and milk with dairy-free options.
1/2 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups whole milk
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Whisk in flour, until fully mixed and browning.
3. Gradually pour in milk, whisking so that the flour and milk mix together. Bring the milk to a low boil, whisking constantly. After about 3 minutes it will have thickened.
4. Add the salt and pepper, taste and adjust as necessary.
Spinach and Ricotta Filling
The spinach isn’t required in the layer of ricotta, but it’s a great way to get some extra leafy greens into your meal.
2 packages of frozen spinach
1 container of ricotta (about 500g)
1/2 tsp salt
1. Defrost the spinach and squeeze out any extra water. You want the spinach to be as dry as possible.
2. Mix the spinach, ricotta, egg and salt together. It’s now ready to use.
Broccoli and Cauliflower Filling
This filling is perfect for kids that don’t like to see their vegetables. It’s also delicious.
1 bunch of cauliflower
1 bunch of broccoli
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1. Grate the cauliflower and broccoli. You can even grate the stems.
2. Saute the grated vegetables with diced garlic until fully cooked, about 5-6 minutes.
3. Salt to taste.
A layer of roasted vegetables is a delicious addition to lasagne.
1 medium zucchini
1 medium eggplant
4 coloured peppers
1. Slice the zucchini and eggplant into thin slices.
2. Cut the peppers in half and remove the core.
3. Toss the vegetables in olive oil, then roast at 425?F for 20 minutes.
When buying lasagne noodles, it’s easiest to use no-cook noodles, which are thinner and will cook in the liquid of the pasta sauces.
Pre-boiling noodles does require a bit more work. However, it is necessary for certain brands of pasta, particularly gluten free pasta. One option is simply soaking the noodles in a pot of boiling water, rather than actually cooking them. They will soften, without falling apart and sticking together. If your fillings are already prepared, then you can put your lasagne together after about 10 minutes of soaking the noodles.
Lasagne is put together in the following way:
1. A small amount of sauce on the bottom of the pan.
2. A layer of noodles.
3. Alternating layers of filling, sauce, cheese and noodles for a total of 3-4 layers of noodles.
4. Top the final layer of noodles with a bit more sauce and grated cheese.
5. Bake at 375?F. Have the lasagne covered for the first 25 minutes, then cook it uncovered for another 25 minutes, until the cheese is browning and the sauce is bubbling.
6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes to set the layers before serving.
There are so many different types of lasagne. Here are a few different options to try out.
• The easiest lasagne can be made with store-bought tomato sauce and a layer of ricotta cheese and spinach.
• A traditional meat lasagne has meat sauce with ricotta cheese. I recommend adding in a layer of vegetables, or mixing spinach into the ricotta cheese.
• Vegetarian lasagne is perfect for the summer months, with layers of roasted vegetables, ricotta and tomato sauce.
• White sauce lasagne uses white sauce with ricotta cheese. It’s delicious mixed with layers of the cauliflower and broccoli filling.
• Red and white lasagne is a classic lasagne where the ricotta cheese layer is replaced by white sauce. It is perfect for anyone who needs to avoid dairy. Finish with a layer of white sauce over the top noodles, which will bubble and brown nicely.
Emillie Parrish loves having adventures with her two busy children. She lives in Victoria and is the author of the fermentation-based blog fermentingforfoodies.com.