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Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

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Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

Time: Approximately 4-6 hours total to prepare and cook; 2 hours to make the arrabbiata sauce, pesto, and cut/marinate/grill vegetables, 30-45 minutes to assemble lasagna, and between 1-3 hours to cook (depending on whether it’s fresh or frozen).

Serves: Approximately 30 main course servings (2″ x 2.5″ x 5″).

Inspired by: My friend Rikke Johansen brought “individual” grilled vegetable lasagnas to a party at my home once that were amazingly delicious! I know she slaved all day over making fresh pasta for them, homemade sauces, and my favorite ingredient was the surprise layer of grilled sweet potatoes that were very subtle in the dish, but added a unique flavor and awesome texture! Reviewing her recipe and a few other similar ones, I concocted this one. It’s a dish full of beautiful flavors! It also makes great leftovers for about a week if kept wrapped well in the fridge. I also love that it can be made the day ahead of a party and sit one night night in the refrigerator covered before being cooked.  My friends with kids love that it can be made in smaller batches and then wrapped well and put in the freezer for whenever it is needed.

Supplies: Ceramic or glass baking dishes that are 2.5-3 inches in height. 3 makes cooking easier.  This quantity of ingredients yields about 300 inches of lasagna. I use a 10 x 15 inch dish, a 9 x 13 inch dish and an 8 x 4 dish.  If you plan to freeze them for small meals, consider using several small baking dishes. Lastly, you will be grilling a lot of veggies – a large grill will save time!

Arrabbiata Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 8-10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5, 28 oz cans organic fire roasted crushed or diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3-4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 6 teaspoons of red pepper flakes (this gives it a great kick; reduce this to 2 teaspoons if you don’t like too much heat)
  • Salt to taste (approximately 1 teaspoon)
  • 8 large portabella mushrooms chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (for a meat version use 3-4 pounds of your favorite Italian sausage – for parties I often make both  – I get 4-5 portabellas and 2 pounds of Italian sausage – cook them separately, split up the finished arrabbiata sauce and add them in to make two different sauces.

Pesto (see ingredients and recipe)

Filling Ingredients

  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes – peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • 8-10 medium zucchini – cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 large or 2 medium eggplants, cut into ¼ inch slices
  • Approx. ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Approx. ¼ cup balsamic
  • Approx. 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • Fresh pasta lasagna noodles – enough to give you three layers in your pan sizes (900 square inches if you are sticking with the quantity of this recipe). This can be tricky because the packages usually only tell you the weight. My favorite fresh pasta shop closed so I’ve been purchasing pasta carried by Whole Foods from the Pasta Shop in Oakland. Each 12 oz container has 3 sheets that are approximately 12 x 12 each so I get three containers and end up with some extra. The leftovers can be cut into ribbons for pasta and frozen to keep longer as well.
  • 3 lbs coarsely grated fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 lbs ricotta cheese
  • 2 lbs coursely grated fresh asiago cheese (I often use a pound each of fresh and aged)
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan or manchego

Preparation:

  • Start with the arrabbiata sauce. While it is simmering, make the pesto, sauté the portabellas, and prepare and grill the vegetables.
  • Arrabiata Sauce: Heat the olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, about 1.5 hours. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Cover and set aside.
  • Portabellas: For a “meatier” lasagna, chop up your portabellas in 1/4 inch pieces, sauté them with olive oil and a bit of salt (smoky salts is nice), until they release most of their water. Add them to the Arrabbiata sauce when it is finished. If you are using Italian Sausage, just break up the sausage into small pieces while you are sautéing it and brown it a bit.
  • Pesto: Make pesto according to recipe and set aside until ready to assemble lasagna.
  • Cut and Marinate the Vegetables: Prepare a small bowl with a mixture of equal parts olive oil and balsamic. Cut the vegetables according to the ingredient list above. Long thin slices is easier to grill than a lot of small pieces. Use your hands to lightly and quickly coat veggies with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and pile them onto cookie sheets or something easy to carry them to your grill.
  • Grill Vegetables: Grill in batches, until they are tender and browned. Besides adding that beautiful flavor that comes from grilling, your main goal of grilling is getting them to release a lot of their moisture so when the lasagna cooks it will have a perfect moistness and will not end up sitting in a lot of water. At times I’ve thought I’ve overcooked some of the vegetables and they still turn out well in the finished product.
  • Assemble Lasagna:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In one bowl, combine your grated asiago and parmesan cheeses. In another bowl, blend your ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of the pesto (or enough so that it gives it a nice flavor without being overly salty).
  • Layer 1: Spoon 1/2 of the arrabbiata sauce onto the bottom of each baking dish.
  • Layer 2: Single layer of lasagna noodles so they do not overlap.
  • Layer 3: Single layer of grilled sweet potatoes so they do not overlap.
  • Layer 4: As equally as possible, spread the ricotta mixture combined with pesto. Sprinkle a handful of mozzarella over the top.
  • Layer 5: Layer of lasagna noodles.
  • Layer 6: Layer of zucchini.
  • Layer 7: Layer 1/2 of the mozzarella
  • Layer 8: Layer of eggplant.
  • Layer 9: Layer 1/2 of the asiago/parmesan mixture.
  • Layer 10: Final layer of lasagna noodles.
  • Layer 11: Spread the rest of the arrabbiata sauce.
  • Layer 12: Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella and asiago/parmesan cheeses – pack it all down at this point if necessary to keep it all from overflowing the pan.
  • Top it all off by drizzling pesto over the top. This is a fairly salty mixture so you can also reserve a bit to top off again when you are eating if it needs more, or to spread on some warm bread to accompany the lasagna.

Cook Lasagna from Fresh: Preheat oven to 350. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil, place your dish on a cookie sheet in case there is some spill over, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until it is bubbling and golden brown (20-30 minutes longer). Let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes before serving, and if you’d like, drizzle again with some of the remaining pesto oil. Or put a “smear” of pesto on the plate under each piece you serve.

Pre-Baked Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

Pre-Baked Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

Cook Lasagna from Frozen: Preheat oven to 400. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil, place your dish on a cookie sheet in case there is some spill over, and bake for approximately 120 minutes. (Add 20-30 min if not completely hot all the way through). Remove the foil and drop temperature to 350 and continue baking until it is bubbling and golden brown (20-30 minutes longer). Let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes before serving and if you have it, drizzle with pesto oil.

Notes: Using fresh ingredients (pasta, cheeses, sauces, and fresh organic vegetables) is what makes this dish so good.

Wine Suggestions: Italian! Any Sangiovese-based wine from Tuscany such as a Brunello di Montalcino or Rosso di Montalcino. If you like something less expensive and a bit more rustic try a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. While Barolo is typically paired with heavier and spicy meats, the spiciness and grilled flavors in this lasagna would probably also be yummy with older Barolo with some age that has had some time to soften. Anything too tanic might class with the spice.

Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

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