Monday, November 19, 2007

Vegetarian Lasagna with Noodles and Pesto

One of my first exposures to cheese and tomatoes, besides in a sandwich, was the Vegetarian Lasagna, a scrumptous, rich dish with a thick gravy and cheese flavored heavily with Italian herbs and layered with veggies and noodles. This was such a lovely way to enjoy the noodles that I instantly became a fan. So this thanksgiving, I thought I'd share with you this vegetarian main course that you and your guests would absolutely enjoy! Plus, it's so easy to tweak the basic recipe to add your choice of vegetables or meat and turn this into one of your favorites! Spiced with oregano, basil, thyme and parsely, this dish is a classic combination of noodles and veggies accentuated by the tomato sauce and cheese, and the mushrooms with Pesto take it to another level! Surely fit for a festive occasion, this Vegetarian Lasagna will definitely bring an appealing taste to your palette!

Ingredients
4 long lasagna noodles
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tspn dried oregano
1 tspn dried basil
1 tspn dried parsley
1 tspn dried thyme leaves
4 cloves garlic - minced
2 cans low-sodium tomato sauce
2 portobello mushrooms - sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cups spinach - blanched leaves
15-20 circular eggplant slices (optional)
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Pesto Sauce (ingredients and recipe described below)

Method

Pesto Sauce: Take 2 cups of fresh basil leaves. Add them to a mixer, add some salt, black pepper powder, fresh garlic cloves(3-4 buds) and a tiny splash of lemon juice(optional). Also add 1 cup fresh parmesan cheese. Now keep adding a tbsp of pure olive oil slowly while blending the mixture. When its half crushed, add some pine nuts to it, and blend again to form a thick yet spreadable pesto paste. keep adding EVOO as required.

Lasagna
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles according to package directions, then drain and keep aside.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cloves crushed garlic and saute until fragrant. Add dried oregano, basil, and parsley and stir. Add the tomato puree and salt and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and dried thyme. Place eggplant slices and the mushrooms on a sheet pan and brush with olive oil mixture. Bake until soft, about 5-8 minutes.

Line the bottom of a casserole dish with 2 cooked noodle sheets. Then arrange baked eggplant and mushroom slices. Add the blanched spinach leaves. Add a thick layer of the Pesto Sauce. Top with half of the tomato sauce and then spread the ricotta cheese over. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Repeat the same layering again in that order and sprinkle all the remaining cheese on the top. Bake until the cheese is melted and brown, about 30-35 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into chunks and serving.

This Lasagna serves as a delicious main course for your parties and needs little preparation. Hope this recipe serves to delight many of you who are planning a Vegetarian Thanksgiving this season. For an appetizer soup, try the Roasted Pumpkin and Onion Bisque, and end your meal with the delicious Traditional Pecan Pie

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